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University of Texas Rio Grande Valley to provide free tuition for students with household income under $75,000

The tuition assistance program is expected to cover tuition and fees for about half of UTRGV students in the 2020-2021 academic year.
Credit: Eddie Seal for The Texas Tribune

Written by Stacy Fernández, Texas Tribune

Beginning in the next academic year, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley will provide free tuition and cover mandatory fees for qualifying students with household incomes under $75,000, the university announced Monday.

The UTRGV Tuition Advantage program is expected to alleviate tuition costs for more than half of the university's 550 undergraduate students, said UTRGV President Guy Bailey in the release. Funding will be available to incoming, returning and transfer in-state undergraduate students.

The university already has a similar program with an income cap of $55,000; the new program will increase that threshold. Among the requirements for the new program is a minimum ACT score of 19 or SAT score of 1010 for freshmen, or a minimum 2.5 GPA for returning and transfer students, according to the program page.

The news follows an announcement from the University of Texas at Austin in July about a free tuition program there. The Austin school will cover tuition and fees for students with families earning up to $65,000 a year. That program also starts in 2020. Money for the program comes from a $160 million endowment from an oil fund.

While UTRGV has used oil funding for other parts of the university budget, money for the tuition assistance program comes from what are known as tuition set-asides. A Texas law requires all public universities to "set aside" a portion of tuition to provide need-based financial aid, said Patrick Gonzales, a UTRGV spokesman.

"As national conversation continues about rising tuition prices and student debt, we decided to reevaluate how to use our funds better," Gonzales said.

Disclosure: The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and the University of Texas at Austin have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.