Texas A&M University

Plan for Free Tuition Passes in Texas

December 08, 2008 02:32 PM
by Rachel Balik
Texas A&M University has passed a plan that will enable students to attend for free if their families earn less than $30,000 and they maintain their grades.

Texas Attempts To Make College Affordable

The Texas A&M Board of Regents has approved a new plan that will cover tuition and additional school fees for all incoming freshmen whose families earn less than $30,000 a year. The System Promise Program will continue to cover costs as long as students maintain a 2.5 grade point average. Students whose families earn less $60,000 already receive full tuition under the Aggie Assurance plan, but the new plan specifically covers students in the lower bracket.

Right now, only 150 students use the Aggie Assurance plan, because tuition costs are typically covered via other avenues of funding and financial aid, but it is anticipated that substantially more students will require financial aid within the next four years.

There is some concern about what will happen if state funding is cut, which may occur during the current economic crisis, but Chancellor Mike McKinney hopes that the new plan will give encouragement to students who believe they cannot afford college.

Background: Cost of colleges spurs concern for Texas

Texas recently received a failing grade on the Measuring Up 2008 report card for affordable college tuition. Measuring Up is a report run by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. Although 48 other U.S. states also failed (only California passed), State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, still viewed the grade as an embarrassment to the state. He also expressed concern that if children could not afford to go to college, the whole country would be at a disadvantage, because it would lack educated national leaders. After the release of the report, Ellis filed a bill asking for an increase in financial aid to aspiring students of low-income families.

Related Topic: Indiana’s Hoosier College Promise Program

Indiana has also ranked poorly in the affordability of state schools. Gov. Mitch Daniels has devised a similar plan to the one in Texas, hoping to combat the problem. In Aug. 2008, he announced that he would ask the General Assembly to approve the Hoosier College Promise Program. The proposed plan offers aid to students whose families earn less than $60,000, covering two years of community college or providing $6,000 toward tuition at another approved school.

According to the Indianapolis Star, it costs the average Indiana family 30 percent of its income to send a child to school. This is just above the U.S. average, but in some states, the percentage is much lower; for example, in Tennessee, it’s only 13 percent. One commenter on the Indy Star article reported that although her daughter was accepted to state school in Indiana, her family saved a great deal of money by choosing a school in Kentucky and taking tuition reductions.

But the newspaper notes that if California is the only state that didn’t receive a failing grade on the Measuring Up 2008 report card, the problem is really reflective of the nation as a whole. The report found that across the country, college tuition had gone up 439 percent since 1982, but median family income had only risen 147 percent.

Reference: Measuring Up 2008

Measuring Up evaluates each of the 50 states and the nation at large and issues report cards measuring growth and progress in higher education. The study has been conducted annually since 2000 by The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

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