UT-Austin President Greg Fenves announces increased financial aid at State of University address

Gracie Awalt

UT President Gregory Fenves announced at the State of the University Address on Thursday that all eligible undergraduates will have access to guaranteed financial aid through Texas Advance Commitment funding.

Introduced last spring, the TAC originally offered guaranteed financial aid to only freshmen with household incomes of up to $100,000 and minimum full coverage of tuition for students with household incomes of $30,000 or less. Now, this financial aid is available for all qualifying students. Fenves did not specify during the address from where the financial aid would be allocated.

“To keep improving access and student success, we need to make a UT education financially possible for more qualified students than ever before,” Fenves said. “We will do this by investing in financial aid to benefit students and families from all over Texas. Everyone’s a part of this commitment now.”

Student Government president Colton Becker said this increased financial aid will help lower and middle income students navigate the rising cost of tuition.

“Programs like (the Texas Advance Commitment) and everything else the University is doing to improve access will help students overcome that burden so that we’re not creating disparities in access,” Becker said. 

Fenves also said in 2019, a new University-wide center for students called the Center for Career Exploration and Development will be placed in the Flawn Academic Center.  

“Many students already receive excellent career counseling through their colleges and schools,” Fenves said. “This new center will build upon that strong foundation and offer additional resources that will help undergraduate and graduate students succeed after graduation.”

Fenves was introduced by Faculty Council chair Charlotte Canning, who called Fenves the “first social media president of UT,” referring to his level of Twitter activity. 

“Fenves is demonstrating that we need to meet our communities where they are,” said Canning, a theatre and dance professor. “Historians will be able to depict accurately the complexity of contributions the University of Texas has and will make regionally, nationally and globally just by what our president tweets.”

Bridging Barriers, a University-wide initiative to solve problems facing Texas using an interdisciplinary approach, will begin a new project — “Whole Health” — this fall called Whole Communities. Fenves said the University is going to collaborate across departments to study families, children and community struggles.

“The world is increasingly multidisciplinary,” Fenves said. “UT must be too. Faculty from across the University will work together to explore ways to foster the healthy development of children and families struggling with adversity by fundamentally rethinking how cohort studies are conducted on social, behavioral and health issues.” 

Fenves ended his address by summarizing the three priorities for the University: improving student access to education and overall academic success, strengthening faculty and graduate student research and support, and serving the state of Texas in general.

“Our goals should be ambitious,” Fenves said. “They should reflect the potential that lies within this state. It has become clear to me that there is one overarching aspiration that reflects the ethos of our University, and that is to be the best. To be the best public research university in the nation.”