Free tuition is now available at the University of the Virgin Islands. This accomplishment is a part of the University’s strategic plan, “Greatness Through Innovation,” which states that the University will seek solutions to the impediments that prevent students from achieving their educational goals, including developing innovative strategies to do so.
With the support of the VI Legislators and former Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth E. Mapp, Act 8155 was signed into law, which created the Virgin Islands Higher Education Scholarship Program (VIHESP) to provide comprehensive free tuition to students within its state or jurisdiction.
UVI President David Hall, a key proponent of the bill, believes a college degree is no longer a luxury available only to well-off and academically or athletically gifted individuals. “Higher education is a basic necessity and must be provided in the same way we provide other basic necessities,” he says.
Before it became law, then Senator, now Lieutenant Governor, Tregenza Roach worked to get the bill through the Senate. The Lieutenant Governor first introduced the idea of a free-tuition policy more than a decade ago when he worked at the University and saw the difficulty that students were having in pursuing their studies due to their financial situation.
In being able to provide free tuition, UVI has gone where no Historically Black College or University (HBCU) has gone before by becoming the first such institution to offer free tuition to its students.
In the nation “student loan debt is now the second highest consumer debt category – behind only mortgage debt – and higher than both credit cards and auto loans,” according to a June 2018 article in Forbes Magazine. Each year, the struggle becomes more real for many would-be students and their families faced with the rising cost of higher education.
This historic development, which was welcome news to approximately 1,700 students who are expected to qualify for the funds, also caught the attention of news media outlets across the United States, including Black Enterprise, New York Daily News, Amsterdam News, The Philadelphia Tribune, VIBE magazine, Blavity and The Grio.
President Hall said UVI’s approach is unique and compelling because funds also are being set aside to support students in their quest to excel.
“The Act provides funding so that the University can establish new academic support programs to help more students in high school obtain a 2.5 Grade Point Average (GPA) and new programs at the college level that will help them to maintain a 2.5 GPA,” says President Hall.
VIHESP is available to residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands who have graduated from a private, public or parochial high school without regard to age, date of graduation or household income.
Recipients of the tuition aid, which would supplement students’ federal scholarship awards, university scholarships, and private donations, will be required to maintain a GPA of 2.5.
The full tuition scholarships can be applied towards study for a student’s first associate’s or bachelor’s degree. In order for new students to qualify for the funds, they must apply for full-time admission to UVI no later than the published application deadline and must have applied for federal assistance through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. New students applying for admission in the Spring 2020 semester must apply by October 15, 2019.