In a move designed to provide greater access to financial aid for college, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia launched the Virginia Alternative State Aid (VASA) Application and web portal to help Virginia students who are ineligible to complete the Federal Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and undocumented students, access state financial aid to help pay for college.
Prior to the new application and web portal, Virginia calculated need-based aid using the Federal FAFSA form; however, many students within the state were ineligible to complete FAFSA because they were not U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizens. The resources were created as part of the 2021 legislative session, which expanded prior legislation to allow certain previously ineligible students to access state financial aid programs beginning in 2022-23.
According to Virginia’s Secretary of Education, Fran Bradford, “The outcome of this legislation is a new tool for obtaining state aid, the benefits of which will reach previously marginalized students far and wide across Virginia. It’s the right solution at the right time, one that makes the dream of attending college a reality for many.”
On the new web portal, which is available in both English and Spanish, Virginia students are directed to select either the traditional FAFSA form or the new VASA form. They are also given the requirements to be considered a Virginia student and eligible for state financial aid. The website also provides specific information for undocumented and DACA recipient students, both of which can use a Tuition Equity provision if they cannot meet Virginia’s domicile requirement.
The application collects “highly personal information,” so, in terms of data privacy, the web portal stresses that all information is password protected. Only the student and their college or university have access to the information.