EDINBURG, TEXAS (Border Report) — Economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has prompted the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley to expand its offer of free tuition and fees to all families in Texas who earn up to $95,000 per year, university officials announced.
UTRGV, which has several campuses on the border with Mexico throughout South Texas, this week announced that undergraduate students who academically qualify would receive free four-year tuition and fees starting in the fall if their families earn less than $95,000 per year. This new family-income threshold is $20,000 more than the university had previously allowed when it first announced a free-tuition offer last September.
“COVID-19 (coronavirus) has created an environment of unprecedented uncertainty for all of us.
But we at UTRGV believe earning your degree should never be an uncertainty – which is why we are formally announcing today a bold increase to our already-historic Tuition Advantage program,” the university said in a statement. “As always — and especially now — UTRGV understands the importance of supporting our students and families by making the university experience more affordable.”
Several schools within The University of Texas System have announced free tuition programs starting next fall, but none is available to families with this high an income level. The University of Texas at Austin has offered free tuition beginning in the fall to families earning less than $65,000 per year. Prior to Monday’s announcement, UTRGV had set an annual income threshold of $75,000.
“Now more than ever, an education will ensure the future of our students. I truly hope this free tuition program — which is the best in the state — can serve as one less burden for our students and their families as we forge ahead,” UTRGV President Guy Bailey said.
The COVID-19 pandemic could last for months and most schools and universities within the state and nation are utilizing distance-learning and online methods to teach students. It is unclear when teaching in actual classrooms could resume and this would be a way to help more families in South Texas stay in South Texas, university officials said.
South Texas has one of the highest poverty rates in the country. In Hidalgo County, 45% of children live in poverty; 47% of children in Cameron County live in poverty.
“We know it’s already had an enormous impact on our economy here in the Valley and in the country,” Bailey said in a video. “We know this will have an impact on the financial status of our students and student body, and so how can we help? We want to be of assistance.”
The application deadline has been extended to May 1. To qualify students must:
- Be a Texas resident
- Be a full-time undergraduate student.
- Meet certain academic standards. This includes minimum scores on the ACT and SAT college entrance exams for incoming freshmen, and/or being in the top 10% of their high school graduating class. Students also must maintain a minimum of 2.5-grade point average.
“Our goal is really simple: We don’t want the hard economic times. We don’t want the coronavirus interrupting your progress toward your degree. We want your education to progress just as you do,” Bailey said.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.
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