‘Open up the opportunities’: Radford launches free tuition initiative

The ‘Radford Tuition Promise’ starts in fall 2024
The ‘Radford Tuition Promise’ starts in fall 2024.
Published: Oct. 25, 2023 at 5:45 PM EDT
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RADFORD, Va. (WWBT) - Radford University is making getting a college education a lot more accessible. The school announced Wednesday that in-state students can now receive free tuition if their family’s adjusted gross income is less than $100,000.

Qualifying families will still have to pay fees and room and board, but the tuition costs will be waived starting next fall.

President of Radford University Bret Danilowicz says there’s a big narrative all across the country that college is not affordable, and this is his effort to change that. He says he wants to encourage kids to come to Radford and get a college education.

He calls the initiative the “Radford Tuition Promise,” and it only applies to undergraduate students who are Virginia residents and go to college in-person. The program will apply to current undergraduate students and future ones no matter one’s current year at school.

It also is going to apply to transfer students who are admitted for fall 2024.

Students will have to submit a FAFSA form by December to qualify, and they have to prove their family’s adjusted gross income is less than $100,000 from their taxes. Radford’s president says this is significant because 60% of its students are from families who make less than that.

“This program, specifically, is allowing a greater range of families to have that conversation about affordability when they know that tuition will be covered. So it really does open up the opportunities for families to have a much more comfortable and much more possible conversation about a four-year university degree,” Danilowicz said.

To put it into perspective, right now in-state tuition alone at Radford is around $8,400 a year. A breakdown online shows fees are around $4,000 a year. Though this deal does not include fees or room and board, students say it will still make a big impact.

“I have two younger sisters, so the fact that they can come to college free it just, it baffles me,” a Radford student said. “I’m first gen, so just the fact that I was able to get an education inspired them, and now they can do it free.”

Danilowicz hopes this will incentivize more students to apply to get their degree. VCU students say they would love to see a similar initiative at their university.

“It gives almost like equal playing field to people of disadvantaged communities who may not have the opportunity to go to college because of their financial situation,” VCU student Skylar Alexander said.

Danilowicz says this program is possible due to investments into financial aid from the state supported by the governor’s office over the past few years.

“At Radford University, we do have a lot of students that are in categories of high financial need. We were getting closer and closer to be able to provide that award to students and be able to make that statement. But this year, with our new addition of the award and an institutional investment, we are able to decide we could actually make that possible,” Danilowicz said.

This announcement comes as many Virginia universities are trying to halt a drop in enrollment and navigate the current admissions process for colleges, given the changes with affirmative action this year.

VCU recently announced it would guarantee admission to any high school student with at least a 3.5 GPA, or one in the top 10% of their class. VCU students say the free tuition would be a nice benefit too.

“Because VCU has such a big art program, and I’ve noticed that not a lot of people from poorer backgrounds are not able to get into the art (program). So this would be a good stepping stone for those people,” Alexander said.

Radford notes new students who remain in good standing with the university and meet the financial aid satisfactory academic progress standards are eligible to receive funding for up to four years (eight semesters) as long as their family’s adjusted gross income is $100,000 or less and the student’s aid index remains at less than $15,000 as determined by the FAFSA. Students are required to file a FAFSA annually by the priority March 1 deadline.

Eligibility for academic years after the 2024-2025 academic year will be determined by two years’ prior tax information. More information can be found here.