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Scholarship and Fellowship Requirements

  • Responsible Office: Development and Alumni Relations, Development and Alumni Relations
  • Current Approved Version: 05/14/2021
  • Policy Type: Administrative

Policy Statement and Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to clarify the requirements to accept and award scholarship and fellowship funds (collectively referred to as “scholarships” throughout). In alignment with VCU’s mission, and to increase access to education and training, funding opportunities are designed to draw from a diverse and broad pool of applicants. All scholarship opportunities are intended to meet current and evolving student needs.

The Office of Development and Alumni Relations (DAR) ensures that prohibited or overly restrictive criteria are not imposed, as such restrictions can limit the pool of potential recipients and are contrary to the university’s intent. Minimum funding levels to establish endowments and related donor recognition are subject to appropriate approval by the Board of Visitors and the university president. Scholarship funds may be held in trust by one of the university’s affiliated foundations in accordance with operating agreements to ensure the same compliance levels.

This policy applies to all scholarships, current and endowed, benefitting VCU recipients, regardless of which campus partner administers the award. This policy does not govern scholarships administered by nonuniversity entities or funded through institutional resources.

Noncompliance with this policy could result in disciplinary action up to and including termination. VCU supports an environment free from retaliation. Retaliation against any employee who brings forth a good faith concern, asks a clarifying question, or participates in an investigation is prohibited.

Table of Contents

Who Should Know This Policy
Policy Specifics and Procedures
Related Docuemtns
Revision History

Who Should Know This Policy

All university employees engaged in development and alumni relations activities and all employees who administer scholarships are responsible for knowing this policy and familiarizing themselves with its contents and provisions.


Affiliated or institutionally related foundations 

VCU has affiliated philanthropic foundations that are separate 501(c)(3) charitable corporations organized to operate for the support of the university, while operating with their own self-governed boards and bylaws. They accept and invest gifts made in support of the university.


A competitive, short-term funding opportunity for graduate study, scholarly research, or professional development.

Gift agreement

An agreement between the donor(s) and VCU or an affiliated foundation that defines the purpose of the gift, the gift amount, a schedule of contributions and other terms deemed appropraite by either party. 

Nonuniversity entities

Foundations, corporation and organizations that administer financial grants directly to students or fellows at Virginia Commonwealth University.


A grant of financial aid awarded to a student for the purpose of payment of tuition or other costs associated with education.


The Office of Development and Alumni Relations officially interprets this policy. The Office of Development and Alumni Relations is responsible for obtaining approval for any revisions as required by the policy Creating and Maintaining Policies and Procedures through the appropriate governance structures.  Please direct policy questions to the Office of Development and Alumni Relations' executive director of Donor Relations and Events or to the Financial Aid Office.

Policy Specifics and Procedures

Scholarship funds may be either for the general purposes of the university or for the specific use of one of its colleges, institutes, centers, departments, programs or units. While the university’s preference is for unrestricted gifts, a donor often has complex intentions for making a gift to VCU, including furthering a particular goal or supporting a particular purpose. All criteria must align with the university’s mission and this policy. Below are common examples of gifted funds and the requirements for compliance:

  1. VCU accepts private donations to fund scholarships that are awarded based on any of the following:
  • Academics: Merit (as defined by the university or campus partner), major, area of study and/or high school or college GPA, or entry type (e.g. freshman/transfer).
  • Financial attributes: Need, as determined by the VCU Office of Financial Aid.
  • Demographics: Characteristics of the student or the student’s background such as residency in a particular geographic area, graduation from a particular high school or school district, state of residence, first-generation student, single-parent household, household size or number of family members in college at the same time.
  • Certain experiences: Demonstrated actions of the student such as fluency in a primary language other than English, demonstrated commitment to working with historically underprivileged or underrepresented populations in specific disciplines, student activities or involvement on campus, or having overcome personal challenges.

2. VCU does not accept gifts restricting eligibility in a manner that unlawfully discriminates against individuals. Scholarships with narrowly-tailored criteria may in some instances address underrepresentation of a specific population as documented by national, regional, and/or institutional data.

3. All privately-funded scholarships and fellowships administered by the university are documented using the gift agreement template available on the DAR website. Modification to criteria may only be made with the written consent of the donor (or donor representative), the university, and if the appropriate foundation, if applicable.

4. Unless otherwise stated in the gift agreement, scholarships are available only to Virginia Commonwealth University recipients.

5. Established funding to support student scholarships cannot condition funding on a certain action by the university.

6. After a gift agreement is final, a donor no longer retains explicit or implicit control over the scholarship, such as selecting a recipient, serving on a committee to select a recipient, dictating the number of awards or award amounts, requiring the recipient to work or providing any direct or indirect benefit or future benefit to the donor.

7. Should scholarship criteria become unlawful, impracticable, impossible to fulfill, wasteful, or no longer consistent with the university programs, activities or mission, VCU contacts the donor or appointed representatives to alter the scholarship criteria.



Gift agreement templates are available to university development employees with access to the DAR intranet. To gain access, please contact, your unit’s development office, or one of the university’s institutionally-related foundations.

Related Documents

  1. VCU Policy: Scholarship Management
  2. VCU Policy: Preventing and Responding to Discrimination
  3. VCU Policy: Development and Alumni Relations Activity
  4. VCU notice of nondiscrimination, equal opportunity and affirmative action
  5. Virginia Human Rights Act (VHRA): Va. Code Ann. §§ 2.2-3900 to 2.2-3903

Revision History

This policy supersedes the following archived policies:

Approval/revision date            Title

May 2009/May 25, 2010             University Advancement Policies and Procedures 4.1                                                    Scholarships for Undergraduate Students and                                                              Fellowships for Graduate Student [BOV policy]

January 2013                            Policy on Scholarships and Fellowships [DAR local policy]

May 14, 2021                           Scholarship and Fellowship Requirements (BOV Policy)


1. How can other universities give scholarships based on race or gender or other protected classes but VCU cannot?

Some universities rely on independent private foundations to administer scholarships without involvement by the university. It is also possible for a university to pool scholarships and offset restricted programs with unrestricted funds, so the overall effect is non-discriminatory. Other universities may have historical data to support that neutral criteria are not effective in achieving diversity goals. If VCU departments or donors have interests in achieving greater diversity in specific programs or disciplines, an evaluation of institutional data and university goals would be the first step.

2. If a donor would like to create a scholarship to benefit a specific group of students what are the options for the donor?

There are many options for donors to have a significant impact in the area of the donor’s interest.  VCU has a diverse student population that can benefit from scholarships based on financial need or status as a first generation in the student’s family to attend a higher education institution. VCU’s deeply engrained values of diversity, inclusion, and equity ensure a climate in which individuals of differing cultural backgrounds, identities, abilities, and life experiences are embraced, engaged, and empowered to excel and succeed. Scholarship criteria may address the donor’s area of interest by promoting research or service in a specific field, characteristics of overcoming disadvantage, or geographic origin or service. Some examples are below:

  • The scholarship is awarded to a student with demonstrated interests or research in the Latino heritage.
  • The donor desires that when awarding this scholarship special consideration be given for students who have demonstrated experience in or a commitment to working with the African American community.
  • The donor desires that the Fund be used to assist students who have demonstrated a commitment to the advancement of women in underrepresented fields or disciplines.
  • The donor desires that when awarding this scholarship, priority should be given for students who have overcome obstacles such as socioeconomic or educational disadvantage or are first generation in their family to attend college.
  • The donor desires that priority be given to students who have resided in [a rural Virginia county] or demonstrated a commitment to working with residents in that county.

Contacting the central DAR Office will ensure you are put in touch with the appropriate specialist to help with a gift to VCU. The general phone number is 804-828-0880 and email is

3. Can VCU accept a gift or award with the intent to achieve diversity within the student body?

Scholarships intended to achieve institutional diversity must be neutral with regard to all protected classes. Such neutral criteria might include diverse experiences or socioeconomic backgrounds. An example of an acceptable scholarship criteria to achieve diversity:

  • The purpose of this scholarship is to support educational diversity at the university consistent with its mission and admissions policy. Therefore, it is the donor's intent to consider all highly qualified students in an inclusive and broad spectrum of characteristics and categories.

Exceptions, as explained in Question 1.

4. What if a donor wants to limit an award to individuals from certain countries or based upon alienage?

Discrimination based on national origin or ethnicity is prohibited. Acceptable criteria related to a particular region of the world would be a demonstrated interest or research in the culture of a certain country

5. Why is it possible to designate athletic scholarships by gender?

Athletic scholarships, within certain parameters, are an exception in accordance with Title IX, which requires that female and male student-athletes receive athletics scholarship dollars proportional to their participation.

6. A donor wants to make a gift or scholarship award based upon a person’s religious beliefs. Can we do that?

Discrimination based on religion is prohibited. However, non-religious criteria may closely match the donor’s intent. For example:

  • Although not specific criteria of the award, the award is intended to recognize and support students who have shown an interest or have participated in outreach or service learning work in partnership with a faith-based organization.”