A Chance to Shine

Bridgette Brown

“I knew I wanted to come to Vanderbilt—it was really just a matter of cost,” said third-year Peabody student Bridgette Brown. Her situation is not unfamiliar to the many students and families facing the challenges of financing a college education.

With costs rising across the nation over the past decade, Vanderbilt responded in a big way in 2008 with the launch of Opportunity Vanderbilt. The initiative effectively replaced the need for loans with scholarships and grants for undergraduate students with financial need.

For Brown, a financial aid package without loans meant she could “accept her acceptance” to Vanderbilt—and at a cost less than her in-state option in Arkansas.

“I knew I wanted to come to Vanderbilt—it was really just a matter of cost.”

—Bridgette Brown

“Ultimately Vanderbilt gave more aid. I would still have significant loans had I chosen to stay in-state,” she said. Now Brown is able to study secondary education as as a James Patterson Scholar through Opportunity Vanderbilt, an option not among those offered at her in-state institution.

Today, 65 percent of students at Vanderbilt receive some type of financial aid. The university has helped more than 8,900 students through Opportunity Vanderbilt and remains one of only a handful of schools across the nation to make a no-loans commitment to meet the demonstrated need of all undergraduates. The university does so without income cutoffs and through a need-blind admission process.

Opportunity Vanderbilt was conceived in 2007 and ultimately made a reality through gifts by alumni, parents and friends. More than 3,500 people have made gifts ranging from $1 to $20 million, totaling more than $253 million and counting.

“The response from our alumni and parents to Opportunity Vanderbilt shows the tremendous community of support we have here,” said Randy Smith, executive associate vice chancellor for development and alumni relations. “The key to continuing this effort is to make sure we have the donor support to make Opportunity Vanderbilt sustainable over the long term.”

Brown summed up what the scholarship means to her future. “Vanderbilt is the best place for me to become who I want to be and the teacher I want to be,” she said. “I wouldn’t be here without this support.”

Learn more about Opportunity Vanderbilt.