__166 students now receive full tuition from program__
p. Supporters are touting the College’s Gateway William and Mary program, a debt-free financial aid program instituted two years ago, as President Gene Nichol’s greatest accomplishment in the midst of recent controversy.
p. Gateway William and Mary replaces student loans with a combination of state and federal grants, in conjunction with the College’s pledge to meet all financial aid needs of undergraduate in-state students.
p. “Students from low-income backgrounds are sometimes deterred from pursuing higher education for fear of running up debt with loans,” Earl T. Granger, III, associate provost for enrollment, said. “The Gateway initiative provides the critical resources needed to pursue a college education.”
p. Other comparable institutions, such as the University of Virginia and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, have similar programs. Gateway William and Mary is considered one of Nichol’s greatest contributions to the College during his presidency, both by the College administration and Nichol support organizations such as WM Fights Back.
p. “The Gateway initiative has definitely been one of President Nichol’s hallmarks, thus far,” Granger said. “It was certainly a priority when he arrived in July 2005, and issues of access and opportunity have been issues that he was passionate about even prior to taking on his presidency here.”
p. According to the College administration, the Gateway program was developed by Nichol in the spring of 2005, before his presidential term began.
p. “Even before [Nichol assumed the presidency,] he challenged a number of us with what we could do in this area [of insufficient financial aid packages.] This was an area of big concern for him, and we worked with him before his arrival so it [could be announced] at the beginning of his presidency. None of it would have been possible without Nichol’s energy and passion,” Provost Geoffrey Feiss said.
p. In an opinion piece in the Oct. 28, 2007, issue of The Washington Post, Nichol wrote that, “the stark under-representation of low-income students in our most accomplished public universities has many and complex causes.
p. Insufficient state and institutional financial assistance, elevated tuition levels, K-12 preparatory challenges in some communities, diminished academic expectations in others, an abundance of well-qualified and well-resourced students from Northern Virginia — the list is long.”
p. For the class of 2011, 100 Gateway students were accepted, bringing the program’s total participants to 166. This is an 18 percent increase from last fall, according to Edward Irish, director of the Financial Aid Office.
p. “We are very pleased with the increased number of [Gateway students] this year; the increase is the most important part,” Feiss said. “We’re ahead of where we thought we would be in terms of how quickly we could get the word out.”
p. Students whose family income does not exceed $40,000 per year — double the national poverty level — are qualified for this financial aid program.
p. “Honestly, without the Gateway program, I don’t think I would have been able to go to college at all. I made good grades throughout high school, but my family wasn’t well off at all. The
p. Gateway program essentially saved me from being another bright kid with no resources,” Lamar Shambley ’10, a Gateway recipient, said.
p. Feiss stated that Gateway students are “indistinguishable” from all other students on campus in terms of success at the College. He predicts that 120 students will be accommodated by Gateway
p. William and Mary in the incoming class of 2012.
p. The College will be investing over $4 million annually to fund Gateway William and Mary when the administration has achieved their “desired target,” according to Granger. This target is projected at 600 students every school year, with around 150 from each class. Feiss believes the College will reach this target by 2010 or 2012.
p. This year the college spent approximately $900,000 to fund the Gateway initiative, according to Granger.
p. “In addition to aggressively seeking private funding, we are also actively exploring grants and other means to help fund this initiative. This is a top priority for all of us. Through partnerships and actively ensuring institutional visibility, we remain optimistic that we will experience steady growth,” Granger said.
p. Gateway William and Mary is a rare opportunity for lower-income students because loans have become such a prevalent form of financial aid.
p. “I saw on my financial aid [form] that I had [received] a substantial grant,” Shambley said. “At first I couldn’t believe it because all four of the other colleges I applied to wanted me to take out about $26,000 [per year] in loans, leaving me over $100,000 in debt after four years … I’m the first person to go to college in my family so I just took everything one day at a time and hoped for the best.”
p. Both supporters and critics of Nichol agree that the program is a beneficial one, but it is contested whether the idea was Nichol’s own.
p. Should Nichol Be Renewed, the anti-Nichol organization run by Jim Jones ’82, believes that the idea originated during President Tim Sullivan’s term and that Nichol’s role was in implementing the program.
p. “Should Nichol Be Renewed is in favor of the Gateway program, as long as we can afford it. It’s a good idea, but it needs a reliable funding source,” Jones said.
p. The lack of a reliable funding source is, according to Jones, why Sullivan was unable to put the idea into motion.
p. Jones believes that Sullivan came up with the idea. The reason Sullivan didn’t enact the program was that a steady source of funding could not be found. The program was set aside for the time being.
p. All sides do agree that if Sullivan discussed the program, it was in vague terms.
p. “The Gateway Initiative is a Nichol-branded initiative. Having said that, I cannot imagine that during Sullivan’s tenure as president that this kind of initiative was not discussed, given that other institutions … had already launched their [similar] programs,” Granger said. “I do think it is important to highlight that this initiative is broad in its campus support … [to ensure] the success of this initiative.”