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You may qualify for free college tuition in Texas. Here's how to check

Many schools have programs that could wipe out your tuition bill. If you are planning to fund with a 529 plan, some thoughts about that as well.

TEXAS, USA — The average tuition and fees at a public university in Texas costs an estimated $10,129 per year. If you are a parent or a self-funding student, those numbers can be intimidating. 

But if your household makes under a certain amount of money, students from that household may be eligible at many Texas universities for free tuition, and possibly free fees, and even free room and board.

There are need-based programs that cover costs leftover after other financial aid has been applied to what you owe.

Let’s start with the programs in Dallas County and Tarrant County

For students who have graduated from any one of dozens of high schools, they help fully cover educational expenses at several universities that each program partners with (these are the ones included in the Dallas County program and these are the ones in the Tarrant County program). 

Free tuition programs at Texas universities

Additionally, many universities in Texas have their own free tuition and fee programs. Again, your household has to make under a certain amount to qualify. 

A few schools require that your household income is less than $30,000 a year. A few others say you can qualify if your household makes under $85,000 a year.

Most of them offer free tuition for households making less than $65,000. But that is Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), so even if your gross income is slightly higher than these limits, you may still be eligible. Just check your AGI on your most recent income tax returns.

Also, some schools have tuition discount programs for students coming from some households that make too much to qualify for free tuition. There are deadlines and there are different rules and requirements for each program.

Here are the links to the programs at individual Texas universities:

529 plans 

If you are saving for college with a 529 plan, it has probably gotten pretty beaten up in the market over the last year. If your balance has been badly knocked down, remember you can alter your plan investments twice a year.

Some of the choices in the Texas plan, like the Capital Preservation option, have done a lot less badly than others this year. It is probably a good idea to have a financial advisor look over the options there, because as you invest, you want to be looking ahead (not just reacting to what the market has already done).

If your child graduates high school in the more distant future, your continued contributions now are buying stocks at cheaper prices. Ideally, your 529 plan will get a much nicer bounce when the market recovers.

There are calculators where you can put in age and monthly payment amounts to see if you're saving enough. There are also charts that tell you low end and high end how much you should have saved depending on your child’s age. 

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