Vanderbilt University and Metro Nashville Public Schools launch partnership to boost college admissions from Nashville schools

Vanderbilt University and Metro Nashville Public Schools announce a new partnership to boost college admissions from Nashville schools at a May 1 news conference.

Vanderbilt University is committed to improving high performing Nashville public high school students’ access to top-tier universities, including Vanderbilt. As part of this commitment, Vanderbilt will collaborate with counselors, teachers and administrators to better guide students through the college search and admissions process through Nashville Vanderbilt Scholars—a new partnership between Vanderbilt and Metro Nashville Public Schools.

“If a student is qualified to attend Vanderbilt, we want them at Vanderbilt, and that is especially true of high-achieving students in our hometown of Nashville,” Vanderbilt Chancellor Daniel Diermeier said. “Nashville Vanderbilt Scholars makes Vanderbilt more accessible to qualified local students, and this partnership with MNPS will also help more students in general get critical mentoring and information so that they can successfully apply to a college that is right for them.”

Diermeier and MNPS Director of Schools Adrienne Battle announced the new scholarship program, Nashville Vanderbilt Scholars, at a May 1 news conference at McGavock High School. The program, which will launch with the admissions cycle for first-year students entering Vanderbilt in fall 2025, offers a direct cost scholarship to MNPS students who meet certain criteria.

The program pledges to:

  • Cover the direct costs at Vanderbilt, including tuition, fees, housing and meals, for any MNPS students who are admitted to Vanderbilt through Early Decision I or II and who qualify for a Federal Pell Grant or whose parent income is $100,000 or less.
  • Provide a one-time summer stipend of $6,000 after the second or third year at Vanderbilt to offset costs associated with summer internships.
  • Increase the number of MNPS graduates in Nashville who are admitted to and enroll at Vanderbilt.
  • Collaborate with MNPS college counselors, teachers and administrators to prepare more MNPS graduates to be successful in the admissions process at selective colleges and universities.

The formal announcement of the partnership coincided with National College Signing Day on May 1, the day when many college-bound students publicly announce where they will attend college.

Announcing the partnership at McGavock, which has a diverse student body, is symbolic of the commitment to addressing educational inequities that have played a role in preventing Nashville students from applying to Vanderbilt. Identifying and eliminating inequities is one of the four core tenets established by Battle to guide the work of the district.

“We know Vanderbilt University is one of several excellent higher education choices in Middle Tennessee, and we would love to see more of our students from Nashville high schools walk through those doors upon high school graduation. Increasing local admission to Vanderbilt will complement our broader goal of addressing inequities for academic and social-emotional learning outcomes,” Battle said. “This partnership with Vanderbilt will help us to ensure that we are moving along the right path and improving the focused outcomes for all students so that they are prepared for success here at Metro schools, ready to attend Vanderbilt if they desire and so they can thrive in life beyond graduation.”

In addition to the direct cost scholarship component, Vanderbilt will lend research expertise and assistance to ensure that high school counselors, teachers, administrators, students and parents have the tools to help students better navigate the college search and admission process, including the process at Vanderbilt. The ultimate goal is to ensure that colleges like Vanderbilt are accessible, and the new partnership will help MNPS students be competitive in the college admissions process, regardless of where they apply.

“By combining Vanderbilt expertise with a new direct cost scholarship program, we will increase the pipeline of students from Nashville high schools to Vanderbilt classrooms,” said Douglas Christiansen, vice provost for university enrollment affairs and dean of admissions and financial aid at Vanderbilt University. “We are thrilled to launch this new initiative in full partnership with leaders and practitioners in MNPS and hope it connects to robust talent in Nashville high schools that would enrich our community at Vanderbilt.”

Partnerships between universities and local school systems offer effective ways to find solutions to complex challenges affecting students and their families, including gaining access and admission to colleges like Vanderbilt. MNPS and Vanderbilt have long worked together to research educational inequities and formulate solutions; launch new degree programs for urban teaching; and improve tutoring options. Their new partnership builds on this history and provides resources to local schools and families so that more students can gain admission to and thrive at leading universities like Vanderbilt.

“It is powerful to see a commitment from Vanderbilt University to collaborate with Metro Nashville Public Schools, the place which gave me my educational foundation, to find new solutions to admit more Nashville natives into an institution with a long-standing history of excellence,” said Dr. Andre Churchwell, special advisor on inclusion and community outreach at Vanderbilt University.

Vanderbilt has been steadfast in its effort to increase access to higher education, including launching initiatives like Opportunity Vanderbilt, a nationally recognized no-loan financial aid program that offers full-tuition scholarships to admitted students of families whose annual income is $150,000 or less. Opportunity Vanderbilt has been a significant part of Vanderbilt’s upward trajectory since its launch in 2009, contributing to student diversity, academic excellence and alumni philanthropy and providing more than $2.6 billion in undergraduate scholarships.

About Opportunity Vanderbilt

Opportunity Vanderbilt, which was announced during the global financial crisis in 2008, offers full-tuition scholarships to admitted students of families whose annual income is $150,000 or less. It is built on the principle that cost should never be a barrier to a world-class education.

Since Opportunity Vanderbilt began in the fall of 2009, more than 15,400 students have benefited from the program. Over 19,750 alumni, parents and friends of the university have provided more than $565 million in gifts for endowment support of this program. Approximately 54 percent of the Opportunity Vanderbilt donors are alumni, and 65 percent of current undergraduates are receiving some type of financial assistance.

For example, the median annual award is $70,350 for families in the income range of $125,000 to $150,000, and the median annual award goes up to $90,640 for families in the income range of $0 to $50,000.

Many families with incomes of more than $150,000 still qualify for financial aid. For example, for families in the income range of $150,000 to $175,000, the median annual award is $62,650. For families with an income of more than $200,000, the median annual award is $39,940.

To learn more about the Nashville Vanderbilt Scholars program, visit