This year’s freshman class enrolled one of the highest percentages of Pell Grants awardees ever, according to a UT News press release from Oct. 29.
Undergraduates receiving Pell Grants increased from 21.3% to 22.4% of the student population, according to the press release. The number of incoming freshmen who received Pell Grants accounted for 28.4% of the class.
Carolyn Connerat, associate vice provost for enrollment management, said the increase can be attributed to University initiatives such as the Texas Advance Commitment, which pays the tuition and fees for Texas residents whose families earn up to $65,000 a year, and UT for Me, which provides academic and financial resources for Pell-eligible students.
“It’s very important for UT to attract top talent from across Texas and make UT-Austin education possible for talented students regardless of student income,” Connerat said. “And then once they get here, helping them succeed.”
Mia Gomez-Reyes, a theatre and dance sophomore, said she has been a Pell Grant recipient since she started at UT and has received aid through the Texas Advance Commitment program.
“The only reason I go here is because it’s the university that gave me the most (financial aid),” Gomez-Reyes said. “I didn’t have a dream school in high school. I know people who are financially able can afford to have that concept, but I couldn’t.”
Although Gomez-Reyes receives financial aid, she still works two jobs and takes out loans to help with living expenses. She said she wishes there was more UT could do to help students who need financial assistance.
“It’s enough for them to say they provided, but the fact that I’m still out here having to work two jobs … just so I can afford to have clothes and a computer and a phone to attend the classes I have and feed myself — it feels like the bare minimum,” Gomez-Reyes said.
Biology senior Breanna Ellis said she has gotten Pell Grants since freshman year. She said the reason she chose UT is because it gave her the most aid when she applied.
“If UT wants to keep ‘what starts here changes the world’ (as their slogan) and continue to diversify their class, they need to support these students with extra resources and as many grants as they can to make getting the education more obtainable,” Ellis said.