Nine more students will receive generous assistance toward their college education thanks to a $500,000 gift from Altria Group Inc. to Virginia Tech’s Presidential Scholarship Initiative.

Students receiving the scholarships will have their full tuition, fees, room, and board covered.

Altria’s gift to the scholarship program will allow the university to increase the number of scholarships awarded to 59 for the 2014-15 academic year. Typically, up to 50 students receive the scholarship each year.

The Presidential Scholarship Initiative was created in 2008 to give low-income residents of the commonwealth the opportunity to attend Virginia Tech, with an aim of keeping higher education accessible to Virginia’s most talented students regardless of family income. In particular, the scholarships target first-generation college students.

“Land-grant universities like Virginia Tech were created with the mission to expand access to education more than 150 years ago,” said Wanda Hankins Dean, vice provost for enrollment and degree management. “We are fulfilling that same mission today through programs like the Presidential Scholarship Initiative, which help remove barriers to a high-quality education for hardworking students from underrepresented groups.”

“We support programs that help create a strong future workforce,” said Jennifer Hunter, senior vice president for corporate affairs at Altria Client Services Inc.  “As a Virginia company, we’re proud to help send students in our home state to college.”

Following the 2013-14 academic year, the Presidential Scholarship Initiative had 182 active scholars representing majors in all of the undergraduate colleges. Together, their mean cumulative grade point average was a 3.03 on a 4.0 scale.

“The Presidential Scholarship Initiative Award is a prime example of how hard work does pay off,” said rising sophomore Skyler Green, a beneficiary of the scholarship program who is majoring in business management within the Pamplin College of Business. “My family and I are so grateful and blessed to have been presented with such a wonderful award that has led, and will continue to lead, to so many great opportunities.”

In addition to financial coverage, scholars receive special orientation programming, social and community-building activities to reinforce Virginia Tech as a community that respects and embraces the differences of all individuals, a well-established and structured academic support system, faculty mentoring, and enrichment activities.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

Gary Cope contributed to this story.