University of Richmond students and students from eight to ten other Va. schools who have received the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant (VTAG), had the opportunity to meet Va. legislators at the General Assembly Monday morning.

Michelle Bhatta, assistant director of financial aid, personally provided transportation for the small group of participating students. Once at the General Assembly, the students were able to meet with hometown legislators to thank them for their support of the grant.

"It helps representatives put a name, a face and a story to the recipients," Bhatta said. "Students can tell them how the grant helps them meet education goals or how it affected their decision to attend a private or public institution."

The VTAG encourages prospective students to consider independent colleges by providing funds to help them realize their college enrollment options, said Gil Villanueva, assistant vice president and dean of admissions. "The value proposition for smaller independent schools is clear," he said. "A focus on undergraduate education and teaching, more attention from faculty, smaller classrooms and no or few teaching assistants teaching courses."

All Va. residents who attend a private school full time are eligible for the grant, and it is non-need and non-merit based. About 600 students at Richmond are receiving the grant, Bhatta said.

The amount of the grant is set on a yearly basis, depending on the state government's budget, and can fluctuate greatly. This year, it is $2,800, but it has been significantly lower in past years. The currently proposed budget will allow for the transfer of unused VTAG funds from the 2013 fiscal year into 2014, potentially raising the grant to $3,100, Bhatta said.

The visit to the General Assembly was sponsored by members of the Council of Independent Colleges, which coordinated the date and provided each school with the information needed to meet with legislators, Bhatta said. Other students who attended came from Hampton University, Hampden-Sydney College and Ferrum College, among others.

Contact reporter Mia Webber at