• More changes on the way for Texas financial aid

    The changes brought on the state’s B-On-Time Loan Program aren’t the only waves coming for state financial aid.

    Beginning in fall 2014, students at community colleges and other two-year institutions will not be eligible for the TEXAS grant program, a state financial aid program for students whose families contribute $4,000 or less to their attendance. The policy is a result of SB 215, by state Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, passed during the regular session of the Texas Legislature this spring. 

    This may mean that UT and other four-year state universities will receive more funding for transfer students and other groups in the future. In the meantime, the Texas Higher Educating Coordinating Board has also been directed to look at the possibility of creating a state financial aid program for online colleges.

    The state already partners with Western Governors College, a Utah-based university, to provide online courses in nursing, information technology and teaching certification to Texas residents.

  • Legislature gives higher education board direction on loans

    Financial aid counselors might be able to advise students to take out a no interest, forgiveable loan in the future, which is currently forbidden under federal law. 

    The Legislature's Sunset Advisory Commission, a body charged with assessing the need of state agencies, directed the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to seek a revision to federal law that prevents schools from advertising the state's B-On-Time Loan Program, according to a report released by the commission in July. Financial aid officials are currently only allowed to direct students to federal financial aid programs, not state.

    The B-On-Time Loan program grants students a no interest loan that is forgiveable if they graduate in four years with at least a 3.0 GPA. Five percent of a student's tuition is used to fund the program, and the higher education board's preliminary estimates indicate the program will have $84 million in awards for fiscal years 2014-2015. UT-Austin students typically take out $7,400 per year under the program. 

    One of the program's biggest problems is low student participation rates, according to a report by the Sunset Advisory Commission. At UT-San Antonio, for instance, $100,000 went unused in 2011 because students did not know about it, officials claim.

    “We’re not allowed to advertise these funds due to restrictions on alternative lending,” said Lisa Blazer, associate vice president for UT-San Antonio’s Financial Aid and Enrollment Services. “They have to request it from us. That will explain why a small amount will not be spent.”

    Follow Jody Serrano on Twitter @jodyserrano. 

  • The Morning Texan: Dry weather, X Games and more

    According to the National Weather Service, Monday will have a high of 98 degrees and there will be no chance of rain.

    Here is some morning reading:

    Yesterday's most read story online: The X Games' arrival into Austin has the power to change the culture of extreme, alternative sports here in Central Texas. It also has the power to change the perception of Austin. 

    In case you missed it: UT is working on another campus food garden that officials say will reduce the University’s dependence on outside suppliers.

    What you have to read: UT-Austin is estimated to receive $5.4 million from the state next year to for the B-On-Time Loan program  an almost $2 million increase from 2013 while other UT System schools are set to see their funding decline.