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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Legislators discuss whether students are aware of financial aid options

AUSTIN – Texas legislators on Tuesday questioned whether students are getting enough information about financial aid opportunities as deregulated tuition rates rise at some state schools.
”There’s $2 billion available every year to help Texans attend college, but many of our families don’t know that these funds are available to them via financial assistance,” said Rep. Roberto Gutierrez, D-McAllen.
As students cracked open their books to begin the spring semester, members of two legislative higher education committees met with financial aid officials and school representatives from across the state.Don Brown, the state commissioner of higher education, said the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has made an effort to promote financial aid programs at high schools, on the Internet and with a toll-free phone information line.

“Our job as a Legislature is to assure the citizens that they’re not being gouged in light of the changing circumstances.
– Royce D. WestRepresentative, D-Dallas

Committee members focused on whether two specific state grants are fulfilling students’ needs: the B-On-Time loan program, a forgivable loan program established last year, and the Texas Grant program, which took effect in 1999.
The Texas Grant program is a need-based scholarship for students who succeed academically in high school. At current funding levels, 19,000 eligible students will not be able to get first-year grants this year, and 30,000 next year, Brown said.
”We are in a watershed moment for both programs in respect to determining whether there can be enough money committed to both of them, allocated in the right ways, to make a real difference in closing the gaps in providing education to all of Texas,” Brown said.
Committee members also heard from state schools that have increased their tuitions more than would have been allowed before deregulation, or more than $46 per semester credit hour.
Representatives from the University of Texas, Texas A&M, Houston, North Texas, Tech Tech, Texas State and Texas Woman’s university systems were scheduled to testify in the hearing, which will continue Wednesday.
Mark Yudof, chancellor of the University of Texas system, said that tuition increases were prompted by a drop in state appropriations for general revenue of more than 6 percent.
Different universities are experimenting with incentives to encourage students to complete their coursework on schedule, thereby freeing up financial aid dollars for other students.
These innovations include a discount for courses taken during off-peak hours at UT-Tyler and free tuition for students who take more than 14 hours at UT-Pan American, he said.
Rep. Royce West, D-Dallas, said the committee was trying to ensure that tuition increases are in line with any shortcomings related to state funding cuts.
”Our job as a Legislature is to assure the citizens that they’re not being gouged in light of the changing circumstances in higher education,” West said.

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