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In 2008, as the nation faced the Great Recession and many other universities reduced their commitment to financial aid, the Vanderbilt community came together to make a bold promise. As we look to its future, we seek to secure endowment support for approximately 50 percent of financial aid, which will help sustain this this transformative initiative for generations.

With the support of university leaders and generous donors, it promised to meet the financial needs of every undergraduate who attends Vanderbilt. There would be no loans and no income cutoffs. It would operate a need-blind admission process, accepting students based on their merit, not their family’s ability to pay.

That bold promise paid off in the form of Opportunity Vanderbilt—the university’s nationally renowned financial aid program that replaces student loans with grants and scholarships—which is now celebrating its 10th anniversary.

“Opportunity Vanderbilt is the foundation of our mission,” says Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos. “It’s who we are. It’s what we stand for. We had to have a fair amount of courage, as well as significant gifts from our alumni, parents and friends, to say let’s do this.”
The Faces of Opportunity Vanderbilt
The Impact of Opportunity Vanderbilt
Frequently Asked Questions

Why does Vanderbilt need more scholarships?

Demographic trends show an increasingly large portion of talented students will need financial assistance to attend Vanderbilt. Through Opportunity Vanderbilt, our community will continue to lead in providing access to a first-rate education, transforming countless lives in the process. This is a noble but expensive proposition, and sustaining it requires the continued investment of our alumni, parents and friends. While more than $400 million has been committed to Opportunity Vanderbilt, we seek to raise another $300 million for Opportunity Vanderbilt, securing endowment support for approximately 50 percent of financial aid.

Is there a minimum amount required to support scholarships and Opportunity Vanderbilt?

Gifts of all sizes make a difference to our students and can be directed to a “pooled” endowed fund. The minimum gift to name an endowed need-based scholarship is $100,000. This gift can be fulfilled over as many as five years.

How will Vanderbilt manage the endowment for the scholarship?

A separate account is established for your scholarship, but assets from Vanderbilt’s overarching endowment are pooled and invested collectively, as with a mutual fund. The endowment currently pays out 5.0 percent of a three-year average market value, a rate set by the Board of Trust. Income earned above the payout is returned to the endowment to ensure your fund benefits students for years to come. We have consistently performed in the top echelon of all endowments.

How many undergraduates benefit from an endowed scholarship?

The chart below estimates the impact various endowed scholarships could have on our students, at the current annual payout rate.
 Gift Level  Description Estimated Annual Distribution
 $1,000,000  Helps support 1-5 scholars each year  $45,000 to $50,000
 $500,000  Helps support 1-3 scholars each year  $22,500 to $25,000
 $250,000  Helps support 1-2 scholars each year  $11,250 to $12,500
 $100,000  Helps support 1 scholar each year  $ 4,500 to $ 5,000

Will I know who receives the scholarship? What information will I get?

Vanderbilt will send you periodic updates on the status of your endowed fund and, after awarding begins, information about the recipients. You may also receive communication from the recipients and visits may be arranged.

For questions and additional information, contact Scott Self at (615) 322-6200 or