UT System approves $300 million endowment to support free tuition programs for students
More Texas students might see college become more affordable after the University of Texas System Board of Regents approved a $300 million endowment on Thursday that will help support programs covering the full cost of tuition and fees at seven UT System schools.
Programs at each UT System academic institution currently cover the cost of tuition and fees for full-time undergraduate students with unmet financial needs who have a family income under a certain threshold, although the threshold varies by institution.
The new endowment from the UT System, known as Promise Plus, will distribute more funds that will allow every UT System school except UT-Austin to raise the family income thresholds. The schools covered by the endowment are UT-Arlington, UT-Dallas, UT-El Paso, UT-Permian Basin, UT-Rio Grande Valley, UT-San Antonio and UT-Tyler.
The creation of the new endowment comes about three years after the Board of Regents previously approved $167 million for an endowment drawing from the state’s Permanent University Fund to generate money to help cover the cost of tuition and fees for students attending UT-Austin.
With the help of the endowment established in 2019, UT-Austin completely covers tuition and fees for in-state undergraduate students from families that earn up to $65,000 a year who have financial need and provides some tuition support to students from families with incomes of up to $125,000 who have financial need.
The other seven schools in the UT System have similar programs to UT-Austin, such UT-Rio Grande Valley, which covered the cost of tuition and mandatory fees for students with a family income of $95,000 or less who have unmet financial needs in fall 2021 through a program known as the UTRGV Tuition Advantage.
Kevin P. Eltife, chairman of the UT System Board of Regents, said Thursday that the one thing he's proudest of that the UT System has accomplished during his tenure on the board is the establishment of the 2019 endowment to help support UT-Austin. He said the new endowment will be "transformational" for even more students and families.
"Forever, we will be able to look back and see that we actually impacted children and families' lives (with the 2019 endowment)," Eltife said. "We said at the time, when we did that, that we would come back and do everything in our power to extend it to the other institutions. And today, thanks to the chancellor and staff and our presidents, we've done that."
The new endowment is expected to generate about $15 million each year, and each institution will receive a minimum of $1 million a year to help support their programs that cover the cost of tuition and fees, UT System Chancellor James Milliken said.
"I just can't help but think this is probably going to be one of the most significant things that we do on this board," Regent Nolan Perez said during the Wednesday meeting. "This is huge for getting kids ... across the finish lines and connecting learning to employability and opportunity."
Students can qualify for the “Promise Plus” funds if they are full-time undergraduate students, Texas residents, fill out the FAFSA and qualify for need-based aid, although certain schools might have additional criteria. The academic institutions will each determine how many students will receive the funding.
Milliken said during Wednesday's meeting that the endowment is funded by smart investments made by UT System financial officers that have resulted in positive returns over the past fiscal year. None of the funding comes from the Permanent University Fund or the Available University Fund.
"This enhances the heart of our mission and reflects the commitment of the Board of Regents," Milliken said. "As we know, the state continues to grow and our younger and more diverse population will continue to require access to education that they need to contribute to a strong and competitive Texas economy. It also means that our high-quality UT institutions will remain among the most affordable in America."