UT ranked 40th in nation for affordability for lower-income students

Rachel Freeman

UT ranked 40 out of 179 top American colleges for efforts in economic diversity, according to The New York Times’ College Access Index.

UT-Austin placed third of five of other Texas schools included on the list. Rice had the highest rank of schools in Texas, at 28, while Texas A&M University in College Station ranked 29. Trinity University and Texas Christian University were the other two Texas schools on the list, ranking at 117 and 177, respectively.

The study includes data from 2011-2015, but weighs recent years’ information more heavily in creating rankings. Trina Manor, associate director for the Office of Financial Aid, said she believes UT’s financial aid has improved since 2011 and the data from that year might have negatively contributed to UT’s ranking.

“We had already seen the writing on the wall in 2011,” Manor said. “Since that year, we have added more scholarships such as the Texas Advanced Initiative and [secured] a commitment from Houston endowment. We can always do more, but we are definitely making the steps to help students pay for their education not just [for] one year but for multiple years.”

The Times compiled the index based on three factors: Pell Grant, net price for middle income students and graduation rate. Only colleges with a five year graduation rate of 75% or higher were included in the rankings.

Pell Grants are typically given to families who make less than $70,000. The net price for middle income students is how much the average student pays for tuition, fees, room and board after taking into account federal, state and institutional financial aid.

Psychology junior Jalesa Blueford said she felt frustrated with the financial aid office, because she was given a Pell Grant her freshman year but has not been able to requalify ever since.

“I never found out why I didn’t get my Pell Grant again,” Blueford said. “My family isn’t making money so I don’t know why I’m not qualified. I’m having to take out a lot of loans right now just to pay for school. Many of my friends who went to A&M were offered a lot of money. It’s sad UT isn’t able to do more.”

Advertising junior Jesus Acosta said he doesn’t get any financial aid, but doesn’t care much about it because he personally doesn’t need any aid.

“I have a neutral opinion of the office because it doesn’t really affect me,” Acosca said. “But I do have friends from my home in the [Rio Grande] Valley who have only been able to come to UT because of the financial aid they received.”