When it comes to financial aid, sometimes less is more. A plan recently put before Texas lawmakers would cap the amount college students receive from the state’s TEXAS Grant financial aid program in order to free up money to help more students, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Since the TEXAS Grant program was created in 1999 over $2 billion has been spent helping more than 300,000 students. The grants are given to student with families who make less than $45,000 and who can contribute no more than $4,000 to a student’s education, the AP reported.
However, as part of a plan to balance the state’s budget, and close a projected $27 billion shortfall, Texas lawmakers reduced the TEXAS Grants program’s two-year budget from $622 million to $559 million, leaving only enough money to cover a predicted 59% of the 65,000 eligible students, The Bryan-College Station Eagle reported.
In the past the grants have attempted to cover the total cost of education—including transportation and clothing—the proposal, put forward by Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) Commissioner Raymund Paredes, changes the grant pay-out so that it only covers tuition, fees, and course material. In addition to changing what the TEXAS Grant pays for, Paredes proposed altering the eligibility requirements and grant term, the Abilene Reporter-News reported.
The largest change to grant eligibility proposed by the THECB is to make the grant “university only,” effectively rendering the 500,000 students in the state’s 50 community college districts ineligible. THECB has requested that the legislature add an additional $41 million to the Texas Educational Opportunity Grant, to make up the TEXAS Grant funds the agency wants to shift to university students.
If the THECB’s plan is adopted to be eligible to receive the grant students will have to be enrolled in at least 12 semester hours and the grant term would be limited to eight-regular semesters. No mention is made of schools that use the quarter system. The only higher education system in the state of Texas that uses academic quarters is the Art Institute.
Reductions in the TEXAS Grants program comes as the number of economically disadvantaged students is on the rise. The Texas Education Agency reports that in the 2009-2010 school year, most recent figures available, 2.8 million, or 58.9%, of the 4.8 million students enrolled in K-12 education in Texas were economically disadvantaged.
A recent joint report from the Treasury Department and the Department of Education measuring the impact of education on intergenerational economic mobility found that children born to parents in the lowest income bracket who do not achieve a four-year degree have a 45% chance of remaining there. However, children who came from the same economic background and completed a four-year degree have less than a 20% chance of remaining in the lowest income bracket.
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