UTSA Expands Bold Promise Program to Income Threshold of $ 70,000 – The Paisano

UTSA, for the fall semester 2022, plans to expand its Bold Promise program – a policy that offers tuition and free fees to eligible students from middle to low-income households – to include students with a family income of $ 70,000.

The program’s previous income threshold was $ 50,500, but currently the new criteria increase the income marker to $ 70,000 and maintain the requirement that students must be Texas high school graduates ranked in the 25%. superiors of their class.

Lynn Barnes, senior vice president for strategic enrollment, explained that the expansion was intended to serve more students and provide more opportunities to have tuition and free fees guaranteed. Additionally, Barnes explained that students not ranked in the top 25% of their class are not excluded from financial aid, but are not necessarily guaranteed to receive financial aid through the Bold Promise program.

“Keep in mind that this test is fair to ensure funding at no cost to students,” Barnes said. “However, the student body [who are low income and not ranked in the top 25%] are fully eligible for financial aid and in many cases benefit from financial aid that is probably close or even higher, according to the students. Let’s be clear: this program does not exclude anyone from receiving financial aid and assistance from UTSA, it is simply used as a marker where we guarantee tuition fees for the top 25%… In no case is anyone excluded from receiving financial assistance. “

Since its inception in December 2019, the “Bold Promise” program has helped more than 1,700 students – two first-year classes – by ensuring full coverage of tuition and fees. Barnes explained the results the university has witnessed since the inception of the program.

“The positive results of the first cohort of students, who enrolled in the fall of 2020, performed better academically than their peers, both in terms of cumulative grade point average and also in number of hours. they took, ”Barnes said.

In fact, full-time Bold Promise students received more credit hours than their peers, averaging 24.6 credit hours, compared to 23.6 for non-Bold Promise recipients. Recipients also received higher GPAs, 2.84, compared to their peers who averaged a GPA of 2.72. Barnes attributed the slight margin to the release of finance charges.

“We wanted students to focus on their studies and not worry about finances. I think it helped the students focus on getting great grades, ”Barnes said. “We want to keep in mind that sometimes students have to borrow student loans to make ends meet and cover their education expenses… So we hope that by expanding this program and providing more institutional resources, we can help. to reduce the need to withdraw students. ready. “

Barnes also explained what the program would mean for students considering applying to UTSA and for those currently benefiting from the program.

“Obviously, this will help more students as they consider applying to UTSA to help understand programs that can help cover tuition and fees,” Barnes said. “We are seeing this spreading through higher education in community colleges and other universities that are trying to offer a free tuition program: it is UTSA’s bold effort to make it happen. There is a lot at stake, but the main thing is to increase opportunities for students, both incoming and current students.

As Barnes mentioned, several universities have extended similar programs that offer free tuition to eligible students. Among them, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley announced that starting in fall 2022, the university will cover all tuition and fees for students with family income of $ 100,000 or less. . The university’s decision consolidates as one of the highest income thresholds for any state public university.

Despite being a sister university of UT Rio Grande Valley, Barnes explained why UTSA does not currently have the same threshold as its counterpart.

“Each university student body is different in terms of financial needs and academic profile; each university is autonomous with regard to its student body, ”said Barnes. “We are a sister institution in the same university system, UT Rio Grande Valley serves a different student population than ours. It’s fantastic that they were able to increase that threshold: overall they have a little more financial need than ours, which allows them to offer more federal and state scholarships to students and more available. than a university like UTSA.

Despite the differences in student financial demands, Barnes said the program would continue to be reassessed: if the university had the resources, the program’s threshold could be expanded.

“We’re going to look at this every year and put as many resources into our students as possible, so if that means we can broaden the criteria and expand the program, we absolutely will,” said Barnes. “This is something we will be keeping an eye on and we want to hear feedback from students as well. If I was a student receiving free classes, I would like to know what is beneficial as a student and also advocate for more resources to be extended to other students, so we want our students to engage with us at as we expand that.

Barnes also explained that the demographics of students using the program reflects the university’s initiative to serve Bexar County as well as UTSA’s current population.

“[The Bold Promise Program] roughly reflects our student population, as a whole, ”Barnes said. “I will say that part of the goal was to help the students in Bexar County and focus on our community, and I think it works really well, so we have a large percentage of people in Bexar County. . “

In addition, the Senior Vice President also highlighted the relative diversity of Bold Promise recipients.

“Because there is an income-based threshold, many low- and middle-income students need financial assistance, which allows them to be successful,” said Barnes. “We have a great mix of first generation and non-first generation and a variety of income categories are covered. We know that there are probably some students who want to take advantage of the program and who are considering applying to UTSA, so we are actively marketing to them.

Students who qualify for Bold Promise and apply by the January 15 financial aid priority deadline will have 100% of their tuition covered. In addition to completing the FAFSA, no separate application is required to qualify for the program. Barnes stressed the importance of meeting deadlines as well as the prerogative of students to keep their share of the “bold” promise.

“It is absolutely essential that students complete the FAFSA and meet the deadline. If a current Bold Promise beneficiary does not meet the deadline for next year, they will no longer be eligible for the program, ”said Barnes. “It’s important that every student who completes the FAFSA completes it as early as possible in order to maximize resources. For those students who are already here and who are daring, they really need to meet the grade requirements and complete the FAFSA application because we want students to keep that promise. If they do, they will be great and everything will be covered. I want students to apply for scholarships… because we want students to have as much financial aid as possible, so completing our scholarship application every year is great for students to maximize what is available to them. We want to be able to help as much as possible, but that also requires students to help by meeting these deadlines. “

Barnes concluded by reinforcing the university’s desire to help students in every capacity possible, enabling students to reach their highest potential while alleviating the financial burden.

“It’s a great story for our community and for the students going to college,” Barnes said. “It’s about UTSA, but we want the students to go to college, period. So taking advantage of these types of programs is ideal for students to ease that financial burden and focus on what is most important: getting their education and furthering their careers. It has been positive for the students, so we are happy that they are performing well… to see this program having this kind of progress is really positive.

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