Financial aid not only made it possible for Holly Johnston to attend Mary Baldwin University, but it also afforded her family the opportunity to send her two sisters and her stepfather to college over the last six years. So when the senior from Danville was asked to travel to Richmond to help lobby for higher ed funding, she said yes — twice.
On Monday, Johnston will join a group of Mary Baldwin University classmates and students from other private colleges across the commonwealth who are headed to the state capitol to lobby in support of the Tuition Assistance Grant (TAG), and thank lawmakers who back it. She first attended the “Thanks for TAG” day as a freshman.
“We are often told to contact our legislators, and as someone that has been involved in politics, being in contact with your representatives usually means complaining about something that isn’t being done or that is being done and you don’t agree with,” said Johnston, who is majoring in political science and religion. “I think it is important to follow up and thank them when they do things that are good.”
Virginia residents who are enrolled as full-time undergraduates at private, non-profit colleges in the commonwealth are eligible for TAG.
Governor Bob McDonnell is proposing an amendment to his 2012 biennial budget that calls for an increase in the TAG award, which will be funded by a carryover of a projected budget balance in the grant’s budget from the current year to fiscal year 2014. No new funding is required to raise the award.
The increase would mean the TAG award would increase from $2,800 to $3,100 per-student, per-year. More than 22,000 Virginia college students benefit from the grant, including 591 at Mary Baldwin, where, according to Johnston, she has seen the advantages of a more personalized college experience.
“When it came to choosing what college I wanted to go to, I knew that I did not want to be another number or another face in the classrooms,” Johnston said. “When I first visited Mary Baldwin, I knew that I would have opportunities here that I wouldn’t have had at large, public university. Faculty and staff have often taken the opportunity outside of the classroom to provide resources for areas of interest to me and how they relate to their field of study.”