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Monday, November 19, 2018

Free Tuition For Low Income Students in Texas?

Texas Southern University low income students

Texas state Senator Judith Zaffirini has authored two bills. The first proposes to pay for community college tuition for students meeting certain conditions. The second, and much more ambitious, bill proposes to give Texans meeting certain conditions, whose annual household income is under $150,000, free tuition to universities.
For years, states have squeezed funding for higher education, placing a heavy economic burden on students and families as they pursue higher education. Recently, though, states have noted the economic drag this places on their economies and have made efforts to reduce the strain of student loan debt on borrowers. Ameritech Financial, a document preparation company, helps borrowers overwhelmed by student loans apply for and maintain enrollment in federal programs, such as income-driven repayment plans (IDRs), that can possibly lower monthly payments.

"We carefully watch for developments in the student loan industry and are encouraged that states are attempting to build solutions for students and their families," said Tom Knickerbocker, executive vice president. "We seek potential solutions for our clients, acting as a trusted advocate, assisting with the paperwork and navigating the sometimes overly complex processes required by loan servicers. Our goal is to assist our clients in gaining back some financial freedom by helping them apply for federal programs aimed to possibly lower their monthly payment based on income and family size."

Texas Senate Bill 33 calls for free tuition to community colleges for Texas residents. Students must have graduated from high school or received an equivalency certificate within the last 12 months. Further, students must be enrolled in an eligible associate degree program or certificate. These students must be enrolled at least part-time and apply for financial aid. Convicted felons and those convicted of certain drug crimes are ineligible. Additionally, students who already have a degree or more than 90 college credits are also ineligible. Students must maintain satisfactory progress and the stipend expires on the third anniversary of the initial disbursement.

The even more ambitious Texas Bill 32 gives residents free tuition to all low- and middle-income students to Texas universities if household income is below $150,000. The bill requires students to apply for financial aid, and the grant then covers any remaining tuition cost. The eligibility requirements are similar to Senate Bill 33, except the program allows students to participate if they have less than 135 credit hours. It also allows a longer period of time for completion, with the stipend ending at the fifth anniversary after the first disbursement.

"Programs like these can indeed lower costs which can have a dramatic effect on overall student loan debt," said Knickerbocker. "We remain committed to helping individual clients find potential repayment solutions so they can get back to pursuing their dreams."