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Why Do We Invest So Much Money in Opportunity Vanderbilt?

Posted by on Thursday, January 31, 2019 in Uncategorized.

Opportunity Vanderbilt Continues to Excel as it Enters Second Decade

College access and ability to pay have been and continue to be a major concern for students and parents across the country. In helping to address these concerns, Opportunity Vanderbilt was developed as a  strategic priority for the university because it helps to ensure that our undergraduate student population is and remains academically accomplished and socio-economically diverse.

In 2008, as the nation faced the Great Recession and many universities reduced their commitment to financial aid, the Vanderbilt community made a bold promise. With the support of university leadership and generous donors, VU promised to meet the demonstrated financial need of every undergraduate student who attends Vanderbilt. Need-based financial aid awards would not include loans, and there would not be any income bands or cutoffs that would impact or limit eligibility.  Vanderbilt would continue to operate a need-blind admissions process, accepting students based on their merit, not their family’s ability to pay.

That promise paid off in the form of Opportunity Vanderbilt—the university’s nationally renowned financial aid program that replaced need-based student loans with grants and scholarships—which is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Over the last 10 years, more than 10,000 undergraduate students have received Opportunity Vanderbilt scholarships, which are funded by the endowment, other university investments, external agencies and current-use (non-endowed) gifts. Sixty-five percent of all Vanderbilt undergraduates currently receive financial assistance and The Princeton Review recently recognized the university’s undergraduate financial aid program as the best in the country.

The implementation of Opportunity Vanderbilt has coincided with a boom in undergraduate student applications, moving from 16,944 in 2008 to 34,313 for the Fall 2018 entering class (to date, Vanderbilt has received over 37,000 applications for the entering class of 2019). The program has also played a pivotal role in Vanderbilt’s national ranking rising to No. 14 among U.S. universities, according to the U.S. News & World Report.

Opportunity Vanderbilt, in conjunction with the development of the Residential Colleges, supports the university’s mission of creating living-learning communities that attracts a diverse student body, fosters inclusivity and takes the undergraduate education beyond the classroom.

These programs, working in concert, have helped Vanderbilt attract higher caliber students. Evidence of this can be seen in these results:

  • Strong socio-economic diversity among the student body
  • Post-baccalaureate outcomes
  • Career placement
  • National honors and fellowships received by students

Demographic trends show an increasingly large portion of talented students will need financial assistance to attend Vanderbilt. Through Opportunity Vanderbilt, the university community will continue to lead in providing access to a first-rate education, transforming countless lives in the process.

We have developed a full list of Finance FAQs, a section of which is devoted to the Opportunity Vanderbilt program, and I invite you to review those here.


Douglas L. Christiansen, Ph.D.

Vice Provost for University Enrollment Affairs and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid

Associate Professor of Public Policy and Higher Education