Virginia’s state slogan is “Virginia is for lovers,” but it should be “Virginia is for college financial aid!” Old Dominion has some lucrative scholarships and grants for its residents who are looking to attend an in-state college.
There are many different college financial aid plans available in Virginia for both undergraduate college students and graduate college students. There are seven undergrad primary state programs, 20 undergrad specific degree and career programs, three graduate primary state programs and 12 graduate specific degree and career programs.
All the need-based financial aid programs in Virginia require applicants to complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to be eligible for awards. Some programs need separate applications in order to be eligible for certain programs. The financial aid offices at eligible Virginia postsecondary institutions will have the application paperwork available for students.
There are three major financial aid programs out of the seven for undergrads that are good targets for Virginia students looking for assistance when it comes to attending college. Those three major programs are the Virginia Commonwealth Award, the Virginia Guaranteed Assistance Program and the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant Program.
Virginia Commonwealth Award
The Virginia Commonwealth Award is designed to help undergraduate and graduate students pay part of their college costs.
For undergraduate students to be eligible for the Virginia Commonwealth Award, a student must:
- Complete and submit FAFSA,
- Be admitted into an eligible, public Virginia two-year or four-year postsecondary institution,
- Be enrolled at least half-time in an approved degree, certificate or diploma program,
- Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen,
- Be a Virginia resident, and
- Demonstrate financial need as determined by the postsecondary institution.
For graduate students to be eligible to receive Virginia Commonwealth Award funding, a student must:
- Be enrolled full-time in an approved graduate degree program at an eligible, participating Virginia college, and
- Meet the requirements established by the granting postsecondary institution.
The Virginia Commonwealth Award does not have a separate application that needs to be submitted in order to be eligible for funding.
Undergraduate students who earn funding from the Virginia Commonwealth Award will not be given a specific amount of funding as the amount varies yearly based upon the postsecondary institution’s available funding for the award. The amount is not allowed to exceed the cost of tuition and required fees though.
Graduate students also have a varying award amount, but the postsecondary institution the student is enrolled in will determine the award amount.
In order for a student to renew Virginia Commonwealth Award funding for each year of college, a student must maintain satisfactory academic progress and meet all requirements of the Virginia Student Financial Aid Program regulations.
Virginia Guaranteed Assistance Program
The Virginia Guaranteed Assistance Program (VGAP) is a financial aid program designed to help K-12 students in Virginia raise their expectations and academic performance in order to receive funding to attend a Virginia postsecondary institution in the future.
One of the cooler aspects about the VGAP is undergraduate students who demonstrate the greatest financial need for funding are guaranteed to receive the largest awards to help them afford to attend college.
In order for an undergraduate student to be eligible to receive VGAP funding, a student must:
- Complete and file FAFSA,
- Be admitted to an eligible, public Virginia two-year or four-year postsecondary institution,
- Be enrolled full-time in an approved degree, certificate or diploma program,
- Be a Virginia resident,
- Demonstrate a financial need for funding as determined by the postsecondary institution the student is enrolled in,
- Be a graduate from a Virginia high school or complete a certified home school program, and
- Earn a minimum, cumulative 2.50 high school GPA out of a 4.00 scale.
The maximum award for VGAP recipients includes funding for the costs of tuition, required fees and a book allowance. The award amount does vary every year based on available funding, but the neediest students will receive an award of at least the cost of tuition.
There is no additional VGAP application that needs to be submitted to receive funding, but a student can renew their eligibility for three additional, continuous years after first receiving the award. To remain eligible, a student must:
- Maintain continuous full-time enrollment,
- Maintain Virginia residency,
- Demonstrate a continued financial need for funding,
- Maintain a minimum 2.00 college GPA on a 4.00 scale,
- Maintain satisfactory academic program standards for the postsecondary institution in which the student is enrolled, and
- Has advanced up in class levels upon completion of each year (12-month period) of receiving the award (i.e. a freshman became a sophomore, a sophomore became a junior, a junior became a senior).
Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant Program
The Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant Program (VTAG) was established in 1972 in order to help Virginia residents attend accredited Virginia private, non-profit colleges and universities for anything other than religious training or theological education.
The VTAG does have a separate application that needs to be filled out in order to be eligible for funding. The application (for the 2021-2022 school year) can be found here or a student can find the application at their eligible school’s financial aid office. The application must be submitted back to the school’s financial aid office on or before July 31 prior to the fall semester. It is possible to turn the application in after the deadline, but a student who does that is not guaranteed funding; if there are any leftover funds, they will be distributed accordingly.
The basic criteria that need to be met to be eligible for VTAG includes:
- Being a Virginia resident,
- Being enrolled full-time as an undergraduate, graduate or professional student, and
- Being enrolled at an eligible, Virginia postsecondary institution where the student is pursuing an eligible degree that is not in religious training or theological education.
- Eligible graduate programs are limited to those in health-related professional programs designated by the NCES Classification of Instructional Programs.
There are 28 eligible schools for the VTAG including Randolph College in Lynchburg, Shenandoah University in Winchester, Southern Virginia University in Buena Vista and Virginia Union University in Richmond.
During the 2019-2020 academic year, undergraduate recipients received up to $3,400 as their award amount and graduate recipients received up to $1,700 as their award. The award varies yearly though based off the number of eligible students who have applied and the amount of funding that was appropriated by the Virginia General Assembly.
Starting with the Fall 2020 semester, new, incoming students enrolled in an online education program or a distance learning program are not eligible to receive VTAG funding.
VTAG funding is renewable for each year of schooling as long as initial eligibility requirements are continued to be met and the student has not exceeded the maximum amount of allowed eligibility years.
Major Colleges in Virginia
Virginia has a rich history in education and the list of major colleges and universities in the state is extensive. Some of the major four-year, public postsecondary institutions include:
- Christopher Newport University in Newport News,
- College of William & Mary in Williamsburg,
- George Mason University in Fairfax,
- James Madison University in Harrisonburg,
- Norfolk State University in Norfolk,
- Old Dominion University in Norfolk,
- University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg,
- University of Virginia in Charlottesville,
- Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond,
- Virginia State University in Ettrick, and
- Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.
If Virginia students are looking to attend an in-state postsecondary institution, it would be wise to complete and file the FAFSA and apply (when necessary) to receive funding from these financial aid programs.