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Texas A&M offers free tuition program

Texas A&M University freshmen whose family income doesn't exceed $60,000 have another incentive to do well in class -- free tuition.

The “Aggie Assurance” offer takes effect with the current freshman class, is part of an effort by some major university to make college more accessible to middle income families, the university announced Monday.

Aggies must maintain a 2.5 grade point average (between a B and a C) to keep the scholarship.

They would also be eligible for additional grants, loans or work study programs to cover fees, textbooks and room and board costs. The estimated cost to attend for in-state students totals $19,950, of which $7,844 covers tuition and fees. Nearly 80 percent of Texas A&M students receive financial aid.

“That’s part of the message we’re trying to send, that college is affordable to middle-income families,” said Joe Pettibon, assistant provost for financial aid. A record 48,000 students attend the university, of which 2,355 students are from Tarrant County.

A national trend

Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have all announced programs in recent years to waive or reduce college costs for middle-income families. The scholarships are due in part to Congressional pressure on universities, especially those with large endowments, to stem the rapid rise in tuitions or help cover costs with more financial aid.

The University of North Texas offers the Emerald Eagle Scholars program that covers tuition and fees for students from families with a household income of less than $40,000. The students must maintain a 2.5 GPA, complete 30 semester credit hours each year and engage in university life by working on campus and participating in mentoring and other programs.

The University of Texas at Arlington offers a similar program through its Maverick Promise program.

No pressure

Texas A&M’s program raises the stakes by increasing the income level. The median family income in Texas was estimated at $52,355 in 2006, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Texas A&M will spend an additional $300,000 this year for the Aggie Assurance program, with the final phase-in cost expected to total $3 million to $3.5 million annually, officials said.

Troy Johnson, UNT’s associate director of enrollment management, said he feels no pressure to change UNT’s programs. The university offers financial packages to middle-income students, and students committed to one university or the other will still likely attend that school, he said.

But UT-Arlington is looking at increasing the family income level for its Maverick Promise program from the current $40,000. An announcement should be made this week, said Donald Bobbitt, UT-Arlington provost and vice president for academic affairs. He said he applauds Texas A&M, but that’s not what’s prompting UT-Arlington to consider increasing the income cap.

“We had been considering this at multiple levels for several weeks now,” he said.

Aggie Assurance

Texas A&M will cover tuition for students from families earning $60,000 or less. Details include:

■ The program takes effect with the current freshman class.

■ Students must maintain a 2.5 GPA

■ The program is expected to cost Texas A&M $300,000 this year.

■ The university received about 25,000 applications for the freshman class. About 14,000 were accepted and about 8,100 enrolled. The average SAT and ACT scores for the fall freshmen class were: 1210 (verbal and math) for the SAT; 26 composite for the ACT.

■ For information, call Texas A&M’s scholarships and financial aid office at 979-845-3236 or go to www.tamu.edu

Source: Texas A&M University

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