The University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) has become the first four-year HBCU to offer free tuition to students.

The Virgin Islands Higher Education Scholarship Program (VIHESP) is available to residents of the islands who have graduated from a private, public or parochial high school. Age, date of graduation and household income do not matter; anyone can apply to UVI for free tuition as long as they meet the requirements. Individuals need to apply to the university and submit their FAFSA before the March 1 deadline to qualify.

There are, however, a few requirements. Recipients have to maintain at least a 2.5 GPA and must also complete a work service requirement ranging from two months to three years within seven years of graduation.

University president Dr. David Hall made an important statement regarding the importance of higher education.

“A college degree is no longer a luxury that the rich and the academically and athletically gifted individuals can obtain,” he said. “Higher education is a basic necessity and must be provided in the same way we provide other basic necessities.”

This is the first historically Black university and one of few four-year colleges and universities in the United States to offer free tuition. Some schools, however, have made strides toward educational equity. Rice University in Texas, for example, recently launched an initiative to pay for the tuition of students with family incomes under $130,000. Individuals with family incomes under $65,000 get aid with fees and room and board. The program also helps families who make household incomes between $130,000 and $200,000 by providing grants that cover at least half of their tuition.

As Dr. Hall put it, in a world where college degrees are necessary, education shouldn’t be priced as a luxury.

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