UT, UT System clarify data on financial aid for tuition

Maria Mendez

UT only covers the full tuition of roughly 60 percent of students from families earning $80,000 or less, University officials said after data from the UT System raised questions on Monday.

During the Board of Regents meeting, at which the Board approved a 2 percent tuition increase, System leaders presented information that appeared to indicate UT used scholarships, grants and tuition waivers to cover 100 percent of the tuition and fees of all students with family incomes of $80,000 or less.

“I am a UT-Austin grad and my family makes less than 80k and I one-hundred percent did not get my fees and tuition covered by the University,” UT alumnus Spenser Walters said on Twitter.

As students on Twitter suspected after the information was reported, the data does not reflect the reality for all UT students from that income bracket.

UT System spokesperson Karen Adler said there was a “lack of explanation on the data.”

The main explanation lacking in the reports was that the data was an average of how much financial aid students from families earning $80,000 or less received in the 2015–16 academic year.

“This means there are students in this income category who receive financial aid that covers more than 100 percent of their tuition and there are students who receive financial aid that covers less than the full cost of tuition,” Adler said in an email.

The data also only took into account undergraduate students who qualified for resident tuition, filed a FAFSA or Texas Application for State Financial Aid, and enrolled in 12 or more credit hours in the 2015-2016 academic year.

Joey Williams, communications director for the Office of the Provost at UT, said in the 2016–2017 academic year UT used scholarships and grants to cover the tuition of more than 60 percent of students from families with an adjusted growth income of $80,000 or less and who filed a FAFSA. This percentage does not usually vary, Williams said.

“The way (the data was) presented leads you to believe that all students that fall in that category get a full-ride essentially,” Williams said. “That’s definitely not the case. We don’t have a tuition promise that matches any income currently.”

Walters, who graduated from UT in 2012, did not receive any grants, scholarships or tuition waivers until after his sophomore year, when he joined the Marine Corps Reserves. He said the misunderstanding disappointed him.

“The statement suggests that UT picks up the bill for all students whose families make 80k or less per year,” Walters said in an email. “It is very misleading and makes it seem like they are doing more for their lower income students than they actually are.”

But Walters said he still understands the need for the tuition increases, especially with the recent decline in state funding.

“It doesn’t change how I feel about tuition going up,” Walters said in an email. “Universities have to have funding.”