The University of Texas Board of Regents is using the University Endowment's booming oil and gas revenue to create a $160 million fund to offer free tuition to qualified Texas students from families earning an adjusted gross income of less than $65,000 a year, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
President Greg Fenves says it is a major move toward removing the burden of rising college costs and college loans for thousands of families.
"This is a recognition that financial support for highly qualified students who come to U.T. is crucial for students and their families," Fenves said.
The program will begin in the fall of 2020, and Board of Regents Chairman James Milliken says it will allow thousands of students an opportunity that they otherwise may not have had.
"There is nothing more important for the future of the state of Texas than providing the opportunity for its most qualified young people to obtain a high quality education," he said.
Milliken estimates that fully one in four students at U.T. Austin today will see their tuition bills disappear in the fall of 2020, thanks to this program.
The program only covers students who attended a Texas high school. Students must meet the University's entrance requirements, and the program only covers tuition, which is ucrrently roughly $10,900 per semester for undergraduates. The program does not cover room & board, books, and fees, which in many cases add up to more than the cost of tuition. The program will only cover U.T. Austin, not other U.T. system colleges like UTSA.
The University has been under increasing pressure to use its massive endowment, which is the second largest University endowment in the country, behind only Harvard, for relief for students struggling under the weight of higher tuition costs. Like state universities across the country, U.T. has been forced to raise tuition due to decreased state aid coming in from the Legislature.
The median family income in Texas is under $60,000, so this program will be available to the majority of Texas families. There is also talk of a program which will provide additional relief to students from families making less than $125,000.
The move comes as college loans become a hot topic of conversation across the country, as figures show the burden of college debt is causing major problems for Millennials, and is harming the U.S. economy by preventing young people from buying homes, investing in new business, and other economy-growing measures.