UTRGV Increases Income Limits for Free Tuition to $ 100,000, But Gaps Remain

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The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) will pay tuition and fees for full-time undergraduate students with a family income of $ 100,000 or less starting next fall.

Current, readmitted, transferred and incoming students are eligible for the Tuition Advantage program, the university said. Incoming freshmen must be in the top 10% of their high school class, or earn a minimum of 19 on their ACT and a 990 on their SAT.

The program covers tuition and fees that have not already been paid by federal and state grants. Essentially, if a student receives only partial financial aid, the UTRGV pays the remaining fees. If a student does not receive any financial aid, the UTRGV covers all of their tuition fees. The tuition fee for an undergraduate year at UTRGV, as a resident of the state, is $ 9,541.

Last fall, the UTRGV increased its income threshold to $ 95,000, in response to how the COVID-19 pandemic has financially affected its students. The UTRGV raised the threshold to $ 100,000 to include more students after seeing that many were still without financial aid options. According to College Promise, UTRGV is one of four schools that offer assistance to students with a family income of $ 100,000. The UTRGV program pays for the four years. Recently, the University of Texas at San Antonio increased the income threshold for its tuition assistance program, Bold Promise, to $ 70,000.

“Some students apply for financial aid and because their household income is at least $ 100,000, the only thing they are entitled to are student loans,” said Griselda Castilla, associate vice president for the strategic registration at UTRGV. “This allows us to go and help these students so that they do not have to contract this loan debt.”

The university said the Tuition Advantage program is the largest program of its kind in Texas, possibly one of the largest in the country.

“This decision by the UTRGV is unprecedented and much appreciated,” said Morley Winograd, chair of the Campaign for Free Tuition, a non-profit organization seeking free tuition in all 50 states. Americans.

UTRGV’s Tuition Advantage Expansion Comes As White House Removes Free Community College Tuition From Its Spending Plans, Says a recent NPR report.

The 10-year, $ 2 trillion plan – called the Build Back Better Act – included a federal / state partnership that would allow the federal government to send billions of dollars to states, provided they eliminate their tuition fees and their tuition fees.

The increase in federal spending on community college tuition is not completely ruled out: the expansion of Pell grants for low-income students and money for completion of college and vocational programs is still under discussion, NPR reported.

“This move, which focuses on income limits for four years (universities), at least brings the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley closer to the ultimate agenda Democrats were supporting nationally,” Winograd said.

Although the UTRGV probably has more students able to attend university through its tuition assistance program, it only covers part of the costs. “Tuition and fees, like those covered by the (UTRGV) program, represent about 20% of the net cost of a college education. When you factor in other necessities, these are not optional things: you need textbooks, you need a roof over your head, you need food, you may need transportation ” said Jonathan Feinstein, Texas state director for the Education Trust, a national nonprofit that advocates for equity in education, primarily for students of color and low-income students.

Feinstein said low-income students would still likely need to work 25 hours a week to cover their costs while attending school.

“When people hear the word ‘free university’ you have to dig under that title to really understand the total cost and what is covered and what is not covered by programs like these. “

While Feinstein praised the UTRGV for expanding the financial eligibility of students for free tuition, he said the program still relies on academic merit to qualify, a potential barrier to entry. ‘education. “It doesn’t necessarily increase the student pool. Frankly, as a state we need to ensure that more students have access to and end up obtaining these valuable degrees and diplomas, and it will be the historically underserved black and Latino students for whom institutions like the ‘UTRGV are created. to serve.”

The UTRGV is trying to fill some of these gaps in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The students applied for financial aid from the university for rent, medical bills, and technology.

“The need is still there,” Castilla said. “Students are always asking for help.


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