Texas invests $118 million to fund new student aid, other higher education programs

Areeba Amer

Texas will invest an additional $118 million in federal funding in support of higher education initiatives, including new student aid, according to a July 22 press release from Gov. Greg Abbott.

“By investing in our students and institutions, we will make our workforce and our economy even stronger,” Abbott said in the press release. 

The investment includes $46.5 million in emergency student support intended for students whose families have been severely impacted by COVID-19, according to the press release.

“We have large numbers of students whose financial situation has suddenly changed as a result of COVID-19,” said Harrison Keller, commissioner for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, in an interview. “These adversely impacted students need to ask for a reinstallation of their financial aid package, and these additional funds will be distributed to institutions to help address those needs.” 

The funding will be distributed to institutions’ financial aid offices. Students can apply for the funding through the school’s financial aid office for the 2020-21 academic year. 

The $118 million also includes $46.5 million in financial aid targeted toward workers who need short-term job credentials to assist in their job search, or who never completed a secondary education certificate, Keller said. 

“We have … large numbers of Texans who filed for unemployment in the last few months, and many of the jobs that they lost aren't coming back or aren't coming back quickly,” Keller said. “A short-term workforce credential makes a big difference for helping people reskill or upskill so they can get back into the workforce.”

That money will be distributed through public higher education institutions. Interested applicants will be able to get the money for this school year, Keller said. 

“Over the next couple of weeks we will work with the institutions to make sure we can get the dollars to the institution's efficiently,” Keller said. 

The funding includes $15 million toward improving data infrastructure and $10 million to improve online learning, according to the press release. 

“The primary focus of that funding will be enhancing quality around the courses that most students take and frequently transfer to other institutions,” Keller said. “(The funding) will be matching grants to institutions to support faculty innovators in developing new instructional materials or dramatically enhancing existing instructional materials.”

Earlier this month, Abbott announced Texas would invest $57 million from the federal coronavirus relief bill to offset potential cuts made to state financial aid programs, including TEXAS Grants and Tuition Equalization Grants, according to a July 8 press release. 

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said the $118 million investment will help the Texas economy in the future. 

"This $118 million in federal funds is a strategic investment in Texas’ higher (education) students and our future workforce,” Patrick said in the July 22 press release. “It comes at a critical time and will pay big dividends as we move forward on a full economic recovery.”