Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposal to cut Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant (VTAG) aid for online students would negatively impact more than 2,000 students per year at Liberty University alone, the state’s largest university by enrollment stated in a news release issued Friday.
Currently being considered by the new Democratic-majority General Assembly, the governor’s proposed budget calls for increasing annual, non-need-based VTAG aid from $3,400 to $4,000 per student for Virginia residents enrolled in on-campus classes at 30 eligible private, nonprofit colleges and universities across the commonwealth. These include schools such as Liberty, Washington & Lee University, the University of Richmond and Hampden-Sydney College. About 23,000 students received VTAG aid in the 2019-2020 school year, according to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).
However, if the proposal passes, Virginia students taking online classes at these private universities and colleges would no longer be able to receive VTAG aid. More than 94,000 students of Liberty’s 111,000-person student body are online students, many from across the nation. According to SCHEV data, online classes accounted for more than 220,000 class registrations among private, nonprofit four-year universities in Virginia during the spring 2018 semester.