UT system makes free tuition a reality for thousands of students – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
With 45 million Americans struggling with student debt, universities are doing what they can to ease the burden.
There is a growing new effort to help struggling families pay for their education, and two North Texas schools are part of it.
In February, the UT System Board approved a new $300 million endowment called the “Promise Plus” program. Beginning in the fall semester, it will provide enhanced tuition assistance to eligible students at seven UT institutions: UT Arlington, UT Dallas, UT El Paso, UT Permian Basin, UT Rio Grande Valley, UT San Antonio, and UT Tyler. .
In 2019, Regents had already created a $167 million endowment to provide tuition support for UT Austin students.
These new funds distributed to schools like UT Arlington and UT Dallas will allow thousands more local students to access funding they have never had before for their future.
UT Dallas can now expand its already existing Comet Promise program, which provides free tuition coverage for those with household incomes below $65,000 per year. Prior to the supplemental endowment, the program only covered tuition for incomes below $25,000 per year.
“The students who receive this support are some of the best and brightest,” UT Dallas President Richard C. Benson said in a press release. “They are our future leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators. I am extremely grateful for this support and what it means for our mission at the University.
The new money is also helping UT Arlington officially launch its new Blaze Forward program, covering tuition for undergraduate students with household incomes below $85,000 per year. UTA expects to support around 4,000 students in the coming year.
A new endowment worth millions of dollars at the University of Texas at Arlington is making a college education a reality for some students.
“There is definitely a social responsibility between universities, especially to make sure universities are accessible,” said Troy Johnson, vice president of enrollment management at UTA. “We want to make sure people aren’t left behind. Brilliant people — people who will become great engineers, doctors, nurses, lawyers, historians and economists. They come from all walks of life and all levels of income. So making sure low-income families aren’t left behind as we move forward is a really positive step.”
He said more and more programs like this are taking place across the country as outcry grows to help ease the burden of student debt.
“It really happened at a very important time as well because COVID-19 has shown a negative impact on low-income families and college attendance. The data is starting to be very clear that this is a very significant impact” , Johnson said. “And so, now it can counter that. The timing is really, really good.
Kelly Phan, a freshman at UTA who dreams of becoming a paramedic, has just found out that she is eligible for the new “Blaze Forward” program.
She said her mother worked as a nail technician in Arlington, earning just $30,000 a year to support a family of five.
“You can imagine she worked hard and I love her for that. She worked hard and raised a family on her own and I’m so proud of her for that. I’m so grateful that she kept us alive,” Phan said.
Phan said that, like her older brother, she was entirely dependent on scholarships and financial aid to pay for her education. The tricky part is how competitive these scholarships are, even if you have good grades.
Asking for this money can also feel like a full-time job.
“For every scholarship you apply for, I’ve probably applied for about 100 scholarships,” Phan said.
Phan said she almost wondered how she would spend the rest of college without going into heavy debt until the new UT system endowment money came in.
“I chose the cheapest options to save as much money as possible. And I’m still struggling to help pay for that,” she said.
But now the path is much clearer for Phan and so many other students who won’t have to worry about money so much.
“Having the peace of mind of having this money is really going to help them focus more on the studies and the academic side of college,” she said.
Phan is on track to receive the new benefits starting this fall for her second year.
As the Blaze Forward program expands, UTA officials hope to cover tuition for more than 4,600 students per year.
“We want to make a UTA education even more accessible and provide strong financial guarantees to families and students in need,” said Teik C. Lim, Acting President. “By devoting more of our resources to the success of our students, we are investing in the future of our university, and in the promise and potential of thousands of current and future talented Mavericks in North Texas and beyond. .”
The UT system’s new Promise Plus funding applies not only to new students, but to current students.
Only full-time undergraduate students who reside in Texas, complete the FAFSA, and are eligible for need-based aid are eligible to receive Promise Plus funds. Individual institutions may have additional criteria and will determine the number of students who will be served by Promise Plus funding. Check with your school’s financial aid office for more information.
If you are not attending a campus in the UT system, check with your school’s financial aid office for financial aid options. Many campuses are involved in the Texas Grant, which is open to students from all public universities in Texas. Read more information about this program online.
“UTA and many colleges and universities are also going to be committed to students who may not meet these criteria. So while this is a wonderful program, and it guarantees tuition and fees, we also have very strong financial aid and scholarship programs at our university,” Johnson said. “An important message is that others don’t necessarily need to feel left out. They may not have this exact program and their financial support may be a little different, but we will work as much as possible to make sure the affordability is there for talented students.”