The University of Virginia's new president, Jim Ryan, announced during his inaugural ceremony that some in-state students will be able to attend the school tuition-free.

The provision would apply to students whose families earn less than $80,000 annually. Students whose families earn less than $30,000 will also be eligible for free room and board, Ryan said.

"I see a community that opens wide the door to opportunity for first-generation, low- and middle-income students," Ryan said. "There is more work to be done in this space, but we might as well get started."

University of Virginia says it currently meets 100% of its accepted students' demonstrated financial needs with loans, grants, scholarships, and work-study programs.

The announcement follows years of consternation about the rising cost of higher education, which has contributed to the more than $1 trillion in outstanding student loans in the US.