University of Texas-Austin Expands Its Free Tuition Program Assisting Low and Middle-Income Students

More low and middle income students from Texas will receive free tuition at the University of Texas-Austin, the school announced Tuesday.

University of Texas-Austin students whose families make less than $65,000 a year will receive free tuition starting in 2020, more than doubling the size of an existing program which currently funds tuition for families making less than $30,000 a year. The university will also raise the cap for students to receive tuition support; students whose families make up to $125,000 a year will receive tuition support, compared to the current $100,000.

The University estimates that about 8,600 students will receive free tuition annually, and 5,700 will receive support. To benefit from the program, students must be residents of Texas; be full-time, first-time undergraduates; maintain a 2.0 GPA; and demonstrate a financial need.

The program will be funded through Texas’s Permanent University Fund, which Texas’ constitution stipulates receives proceeds from state-owned land in West Texas- including oil and gas royalties. The University of Texas System Board of Regents voted Tuesday to start a $160 million endowment with an allotment from the fund, which will be used to pay for financial assistance. The university would also continue to draw on other sources to partially fund the students’ tuition, including federal Pell grants and statewide programs.

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“There is no greater engine of social and economic mobility than a college degree, and this initiative ensures that more Texans will benefit from a high-quality UT Austin education,” said Chancellor James Milliken, one of the board’s leaders, said in a statement.

The University of Texas-Austin joins a growing number of colleges and universities to expand free tuition programs for low and middle income students. In Texas, Rice University also provides free tuition, as well as fees, room and board to students whose families make less than $65,000; students whose families earn between $65,000 and $130,000 receive full tuition alone.

The high cost of college has also become a key issue in 2020, as a number of Democratic presidential candidates have advocated for a range of policy solutions. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, as well as Julian Castro, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, have advocated for free tuition at all public institutions.

Write to Tara Law at tara.law@time.com.

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