UT boosts financial aid for low- and middle-income students


Highlights

Qualifying freshmen from Texas whose family incomes are less than $30,000 will have tuition fully covered.

The aid is in addition to $7.5 million a year that UT sets aside for middle-income students starting in 2016.

The University of Texas has expanded its annual spending on financial aid by $5 million to help students from low- and middle-income families.

Starting this fall, incoming freshmen from Texas with family incomes as high as $100,000 could be eligible for grants depending on financial need as determined by a federal formula that takes the size of the family and other matters into account.

The new program, dubbed the Texas Advance Commitment, is funded by recurring proceeds from the Permanent University Fund endowment allocated by the UT System Board of Regents.

“This is grants and scholarships — no loans,” university spokesman J.B. Bird said. “Part of the goal is to help people graduate with less debt.”

Rachelle Hernandez, UT senior vice provost for enrollment management, said the aid also “reinforces our efforts to support student success and timely graduation.”

The aid is in addition to $7.5 million a year that UT President Gregory L. Fenves set aside for middle-income students starting in 2016, as well as earlier support for low-income students.

“It is imperative that the university do more to help lower- and middle-income Texans afford a UT-Austin education,” Fenves said in a statement. In his state of the university address in September, he said making the university more affordable for students of modest means helps pursue its “deepest purpose … to unlock potential.”

In March, UT’s governing board approved a two-step tuition increase sought by Fenves — 2 percent in the fall and another 2 percent in fall 2019. That will bring the average academic charge for full-time undergraduates from Texas to $10,818 a year — $420 more than the current average charge.

The additional revenue from tuition, estimated at $13.5 million for the 2019 budget year, will be used for financial aid, student internships and compensation for recruiting and retaining faculty members, officials said.

Students seeking the new award must apply for financial aid by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as FAFSA, or the Texas Application for State Financial Aid, or TASFA. To qualify, a student must have unmet need — meaning a gap between the expected family contribution based on the FAFSA and the total cost of attendance (tuition, fees, books, room, board and other expenses), minus any grants.

Qualifying students whose families make less than $30,000 a year are guaranteed to receive sufficient aid to fully cover tuition for four years, officials said. Students with family incomes of $100,000 who have unmet need could get at least $300 but no more than $2,000 per year under the program.

The total cost for a freshman from Texas in the current academic year averages $25,440, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.

For students with family incomes under $30,000, the average net price was $12,434 in the 2015-16 academic year, according to the latest figures posted by the statistics center. The average net price is the difference between the total cost of attendance and federal, state, university and other grant aid. Many students cover the net price with loans and jobs.



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