The University of Central Florida today dedicated an additional $40 million to scholarships and other institutional aid that supports student success, a strategic move that will help students graduate faster and with less debt.
“Our commitment to excellence means investing in all of our students’ success, because we know this investment will impact thousands of lives now and in the future while lifting our community and the state,” says President Dale Whittaker.
UCF’s new Constellation Fund grew from President Dale Whittaker’s belief, supported by the UCF Board of Trustees, that income shouldn’t be a predictor of a student’s ability to earn a college degree.
“There’s no better tool than a college degree when it comes to advancing your future or your family’s future,” Whittaker says, announcing a major initiative of his presidency. “Our commitment to excellence means investing in all of our students’ success, because we know this investment will impact thousands of lives now and in the future while lifting our community and the state.”
UCF already offers a variety of need- and merit-based grant and scholarship programs, as well as one of the lowest tuition rates in the nation. The new funding will significantly increase the amount of institutional aid such as scholarships, grants, fellowships and assistantships that UCF provides. That funding will augment existing programs, many of which support low- and middle-income students who often are the first in their families to go to college.
Nearly half of UCF students work more than 20 hours a week, which sometimes means they have to enroll in fewer classes and extend the time it takes to graduate. And for some students, an unexpected medical bill or car repair can leave them unable to enroll in the last few classes needed to earn a degree.
“The Constellation Fund allows us to make one of the nation’s best-value educations even more affordable,” UCF Board of Trustees Chairman Marcos Marchena says. “We appreciate the Florida Board of Governors and Legislature’s focus on affordability. As one of the country’s most innovative institutions, we are committed to finding innovative ways to help our students succeed.”
Powered by data analytics that identify students at risk of not graduating, the Constellation Fund will help the university remove these obstacles for more students while focusing on academic excellence. Among the ways the funds may help students include:
- Providing crucial short-term assistance to help students overcome financial hurdles that may keep them from graduating.
- Offering the financial security necessary for students to reduce their work hours.
- Reducing student debt by replacing student loans with grants and scholarships.
- Funding additional graduate fellowships to advance UCF’s research mission.
A taskforce with input from students, faculty and academic leaders will help develop a plan that will be ready by Feb. 1 with details about aid distribution and student eligibility. Some scholarships may be awarded as early as Spring 2019 to help graduating students.
At this time, students do not need to contact the financial aid office. A Q&A can be found here, and the page will be updated as more information becomes available.
The Constellation Fund is the beginning of an enhanced focus on student success and excellence under Whittaker’s presidency. The initiative is expected to help UCF become the State of Florida’s next preeminent university and continue to excel at performance-based funding measures established by the Florida Board of Governors that help determine the level of funding universities receive from the state.
The scholarships should help boost UCF’s four-year graduation rate, one of only a few remaining criteria UCF must check off to achieve preeminence. Earlier this year, UCF reached its highest four-year graduation rate ever and passed the state’s 90 percent first-year retention preeminence threshold.
The university continues to see the quality of its incoming freshmen increase, welcoming the most accomplished class to date this fall with an average grade point average of 4.12 and 1328 average SAT score. The Constellation Fund will help continue attracting the highest-quality students to UCF while reducing the net cost of a college education.
U.S. News & World Report ranks UCF as one of the country’s top 10 “most innovative” universities. The Washington Post credits UCF with leading a “national insurgency that aims to demolish the popular belief that exclusivity is a virtue in higher education.”
And following a campus visit last year on behalf of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates noted that UCF proves that a university “can have it all: a large, diverse student population, high standards, and affordable tuition.”
“UCF will be the nation’s leading producer of talent and ideas,” Whittaker says. “This initiative brings us one step closer to unleashing our population’s full potential through the power of education.”