First-Generation Students at UVA To Benefit From $5 Million Scholarship Gift

November 15, 2023
A view of grounds through architecture

A $5 million grant from the Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund Inc. will bolster the University’s efforts to attract, support and retain a growing number of first-generation college students. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

A new scholarship at the University of Virginia is designed to attract more of the most outstanding first-generation students from across the country by minimizing the funding gap in financial aid that they might otherwise have to fill with loans. 

A $5 million grant from the Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund Inc. will be paid annually over five years to create the Davis First-Generation Scholarship. The gift will bolster the University’s efforts to attract, support and retain a growing number of first-generation college students by offsetting their student loans and making the University an increasingly attractive choice for first-generation students and their families.

“I am grateful for this generous commitment from the Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund, which will allow more first-generation students access to all of the opportunities that UVA offers without the burden of student loans,” UVA President Jim Ryan said. “In our strategic plan, we committed to being one of the best universities in the country for first-generation students. This scholarship is another step in realizing that commitment.”

The commitment builds on UVA’s standing as one of only two public universities that offer need-blind admissions and promise to meet 100% of every student’s demonstrated financial need. Creating need-based scholarships is a top priority of the Honor the Future campaign and the University’s mission to provide opportunities for first-generation students. 

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In 2019, UVA’s entering class included more than 500 first-generation students. The number has increased to a total of 2,724. In this year’s class, 16% of students identify as first-generation, improving on the 13.4% of undergraduates who identified as first-generation in the fall of 2021 and the 10% of all students who identified as such just five years ago. 

“Our mission is to welcome talented students from all walks of life, and we’ve made good progress where first-generation students are concerned,” Stephen Farmer, vice provost for enrollment, said. “These students can be especially reluctant to take out loans for college, and because they’re strong enough to earn admission to UVA, other schools are offering them merit scholarships that eliminate their loans and are hard to turn down. This generous gift from the Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund will go a long way toward attracting and enrolling the best students and allowing us to support their success.” 

The Davis First-Generation Scholarship will be structured similarly to the Blue Ridge Scholarship program that was initiated in 2014 through a gift from McIntire School of Commerce alumnus John Griffin.

The Office of Undergraduate Admission and Student Financial Services will identify first-generation applicants who demonstrate financial need and academic excellence. With flexibility in the amount awarded to each beneficiary, the scholarship will be available to any first-generation college student with financial need from any state in the country.

As the University anticipates continued growth in first-generation students, the commitment from the Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund will encourage the strongest first-generation students to enroll, as many as 30 to 40 additional outstanding students in each class.

The Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund Inc., established in 2006, supports education, arts and culture, the environment and health.

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