Great news for students in the Austin area! Earlier this week, the University of Texas’ System Board of Regents voted unanimously to move $160 million from the state’s Permanent University Fund to dramatically expand the financial aid it offers to low- and middle-income undergraduates that attend the university. School officials expect that the endowment will fully cover the tuition fees of students whose families earn up to $65,000 in adjusted gross income a year beginning in fall 2020.
The endowment will more than double the number of students getting free tuition. UT Austin officials estimate that the new financial aid will cover tuition fees for an estimated 8,600 students, or approximately 24 percent of the undergraduate student body. The previous endowment, which began in fall 2018, only covered full tuition fees for students whose families earn up to $30,000 a year. Current tuition fees are $10,314 annually.
Graduate and out-of-state students are ineligible for this aid, however transfer students are. The allocation will also finance partial tuition support for students from families with incomes up to $125,000 if they demonstrate a need for financial aid. The program will not pay for students’ living expenses, which were estimated to be around $17,000 for the current academic year.
“We all know the struggles that hardworking families are having putting their kids through school,” said board chair Kevin Eltife in an interview after the vote. “What we’ve done here is repurposed an endowment into another endowment that will provide tuition assistance to a lot of the working families in Texas.”
UT Austin president Greg Fenves — who has spent most of his decades-long tenure working on affordability issues — thanked Eltife and the regents for making the university more accessible to lower-income students. “Chairman Eltife understands that college affordability is one of the most critical issues affecting all Texans,” Fenves said. “Thanks to his leadership and the board’s action, this new endowment will go a long way toward making our university affordable for talented Texas students from every background and region.”
WHAT IS the state’s permanent university fund?
The $160 million allocation comes from the Permanent University Fund, an endowment created in 1876 from state-owned lands set aside in West Texas that generates revenue and royalties from the oil and gas industries. The fund has a market value of $22.3 billion.
how will the endowment be rolled out?
The financial commitment to cover tuition will be ongoing. According to Dallas News, the allocation will “create an endowment in which the money is invested and are used to fund the tuition costs in perpetuity.” Fenves estimated that the cost of the Texas Advance Commitment program will be approximately $20 million in the first year.