UVa-Wise Making Grades

College making national name in affordability, post-graduation student salaries

When trying to decide where to go to college there are a multitude of factors to consider from SAT requirements to costs and location.

In an effort to try and make these decisions easier, President Obama recently announced a new program from the Department of Education called ‘College Scorecard’ which compares colleges based on certain factors including costs, financial aid, graduation rates, and student body.

Graphic: Andrew Hamilton | The Highland Cavalier
Graphic: Andrew Hamilton | The Highland Cavalier

While there are several rating systems such as this one already available from several different organizations, its results are still worth looking into.

One important factor to note when looking at the scorecard’s findings is that they only represent data from students who have received some type of federal financial aid during their time at UVa-Wise.

With that being said, UVa-Wise received an average annual cost of $8,843, well below the national average. The scorecard also showed that approximately 42 percent of students received federal loans (excluding Parent PLUS Loans).

For undergraduate borrowers who complete college, the typical total debt for a student coming from UVa-Wise was $20,700; this amount is approximately $10,000 less than the national average.

The affordability of UVa-Wise however doesn’t take away from the college’s performance or worth; in fact UVa-Wise was Henry recently named one of Virginia’s top arts and humanities colleges by Virginia Living magazine in its September edition.

Graphic: Andrew Hamilton | The Highland Cavalier
Graphic: Andrew Hamilton | The Highland Cavalier

The scorecard also contains other figures that breakdown the student body and graduation/retention statistics at the college.

According to the data, about 71% of first-time, freshmen students return after their first year of college, a rate already above the national average of 67 percent. Chancellor Donna Henry said that the college already has plans to get that number to 80% by the year 2020 and that she hopes they can reach it even sooner.

Henry mentioned several programs and changes that the college is implementing that will help make this goal a reality such as giving more time and effort to tutors, a new writing program to help students, and renovations like the new library which will be open 24/7.

All of these, Henry believed, will assist students and help them to succeed and stay in Wise to finish their college education.

The college scorecard also shows a breakdown of the demographics of the student body, another key factor the college looks at.

Now, approximately 50 percent of the student body comes from the Southwest Virginia area with the rest mostly coming from the other areas of Virginia (roughly 5% of the student body comes from other states and countries).

Despite the decline in the population of Southwest Virginia, Henry believes that the college will continue to receive about half of its students from the area.

Henry said that with the decline of the coal industry in the area and the rising importance of higher education in the workforce, there would be an increase in first-generation college students coming to the college. She said that this is a continued representation of Thomas Jefferson’s and the college’s goal of bringing higher education to the mountains of Virginia.

Henry also spoke about the local economy and the role that UVa-Wise will continue to play in the area.

“We are a big economic driver for employees and workers in the area,” said Henry. In addition to creating jobs for faculty and staff at the college, the college also continues to create jobs through its projects such as the forty billion dollar investment in the new library which employs over one-hundred people with its construction.

Henry also spoke about the college’s desire to help diversify the economy by collaborating with new industries looking to move into the area.

Henry mentioned the benefits this could have for the college such as making the area more attractive to new investments, giving students more opportunities for internships and hands on experience, and allowing both faculty and students to learn and aid in research and development.

UVa-Wise has certainly been and will continue to Page 2 be a driving force in the region and the town of Wise in particular.

As the coal industry continues to decline, many local municipalities that relied heavily on the industry now struggle to sustain their integrity and many once bustling coal towns, such as Appalachia or Haysi, are now only a visage of their former selves.

UVa-Wise has acted as a buffer for the surrounding area against this decline and with plans to continue to grow and diversify, the college will not only continue to better itself and its students, but the local region as a whole.

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