University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan said Tuesday that she’s been floating the idea of a state-level version of the work-study financial aid program.
Sullivan wants to give more students paid internships with professors as part of their financial aid packages, but federal work-study money requires matching funds from universities, which can’t come from other federal money. Sullivan said that makes it difficult to put students to work with professors who have federal research grants.
Sullivan mentioned the proposal during a panel discussion at UVa, but emphasized that it’s still a very preliminary idea, which she has raised with the Council of Presidents, a national body made up of college presidents.
It’s a long way from a formal proposal, she said.
Earlier in the same event, Del. R. Steven Landes, R-Weyers Cave, said that funding is going to be a continuing issue for higher education in Virginia, especially given other budget constraints, including a Medicaid tab that works out to more than a fifth of the entire state budget.
Del. David J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville and House of Delegates minority leader, said Virginia has followed the national trend of under-investing in higher education.
“Virginia’s been doing a little better than some other places, but that doesn’t excuse what we’ve been doing,” he said.
The panel discussion was put on by Virginia21, a nonpartisan group for young people interested in higher education, economic development and government. Piedmont Virginia Community College President Frank Friedman also participated, and the event involved students from both UVa and PVCC.
Sullivan said after the talk that a state work-study program might be something legislators would be more comfortable committing additional money to, compared with student aid without a work component.
Sullivan told the audience that UVa wants to package more financial aid as work-study paid internships with professors in part because some students who opt not to attend UVa cite worries about being able to interact enough with their professors.
And there’s another benefit, Sullivan said: “We need the jobs.”
While UVa has a strong graduation rate, Sullivan said that some research shows that students with on-campus jobs are more likely to graduate than those with off-campus employment, which could be a big deal for some other institutions, she said.
Panel members also discussed other issues, ranging from the demands of the workforce to funds for transfer students.