It seems a bit oxymoronic to quit your job or demote your career so you can “afford” to get your children into college. However, some parents in Texas may be considering just that.
A recent news story out of Austin, Texas, caught our eye: The University of Texas-Austin promises free tuition to qualifying in-state students whose families make $65,000 or less per year, starting in the fall of 2020. This prompted us to ask some Texans for their input on this decision, and what they would be willing to do to qualify their own children for this astounding benefit.
But first, more on the University decision
As NPR reported, the University of Texas-Austin’s state board voted unanimously to expand an existing program that offered qualifying in-state students whose families make less than $30,000 a year the opportunity to attend tuition-free. This new program—which more than doubles that qualifying threshold to $65,000 for families—was decided based on 2017 research that found the median household income in Texas was $59,206 a year.
Additionally, the school is offering increased financial aid resources to students whose families make up to $125,000 a year. The school expects the free tuition program will benefit about 8,600 students, current and new. And an additional 5,700 students will now gain access to more financial aid resources. Transfer students can also benefit, but graduate students are excluded.
Already, the University of Texas-Austin is fairly affordable, as tuition and fees only cost about $10,500 per semester (excluding room and living expenses). Furthermore, the university’s endowment that will provide this financial support to students comes from money collected through state-owned land in West Texas that earned oil and gas royalties. Board members hope this new financial aid program will help recruit talented students from low-income areas who may not have otherwise been able to afford to pursue a college degree.
What Texans have to say about it
With this information in mind, we asked Texans what they think about this new decision from the University of Texas. Overall, over 650 Texans responded to our survey.*
What do you think about the University of Texas-Austin’s decision to provide free tuition to students whose families make less than $65,000 a year?
- 76% support the decision
- 11% do not support the decision
- 12% were unsure
Would you change jobs to make less than $65,000 a year to get your child free tuition?
- 55% said no
- 26% said yes
- 18% were unsure
What would you do?
Many parents have taken drastic measures to ensure their children get into college or receive the financial aid they need to pursue a degree. Most recently, the stories that have received the most attention focus on affluent parents and their attempts to bypass financial aid needs-based thresholds or create fraudulent educational records for their college-bound children.
One story out of Chicago found that parents were even signing away guardianship of their children to relatives or friends who made less money, so their children could qualify for need-based student financial aid. “This is legal, but we question the ethics,” said Andrew Borst, director of undergraduate enrollment with the University of Illinois.
However, it’s not just affluent parents who are willing to find loopholes or workarounds to qualify their students for need-based aid. As 177 people in our survey responded, they would be willing to change their careers to have their children qualify for the free-tuition benefit. As student loan debt continues to grow in the U.S., it’s no wonder so many middle-class and lower-income families would be willing to bypass that potential concern to pursue higher education.
Would you find yourself changing your career or quitting altogether to have your children qualify for free tuition? Would you even consider packing up your family and moving to Texas before 2020 so you could take part in this new program? Let us know!