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Financial Aid

Financial Aid

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Problem statement

Recent studies show that student retention and success hinge upon numerous nonacademic and academic factors including adequate financial aid and targeted student support services. How can we design and fund an effective financial aid program that will encourage and facilitate success (at community colleges and universities), and transfer of community college students to four-year institutions?

Background

Adequate financial resources are an important factor when a student is deciding whether or not to enroll in or continue in higher education. Students and families hear from the media that the cost of going to college is rising at an alarming rate. They do not hear about the true cost of college, and that the cost of attendance at a community college is about sixty percent less than the cost of attendance at a university. In Texas, the average cost of tuition and fees for a university student is over three times that of a community college student ($3278 compared to $11,038).

To change the perception need to do three things:

  • Ensure that students and families understand that a community college is a less expensive option;
  • Ensure that students have and can count on adequate financial support if they attend a community college; and
  • Encourage students (who attain an associate’s degree or complete the core curriculum) to continue their education at a university.

If we can inform students and families that college is affordable, in particular if a student starts his education at a community college, and provide adequate and innovative financing we can facilitate success and encourage community college students to transfer to a university when the time is right.

Recommendations: Financial Aid

  1. Federal Financial Aid Background
    • Federal Financial Aid is difficult to navigate (e.g. FAFSA); need to better adapt form to meet need student needs.
    • Hispanic serving institutions have a difficult to get students/parents to fill out federal paperwork.
    • Hard for Hispanic families to provide tax information
    • FAFSA very complex even for knowledgeable applicants
    • Need better working arrangement with Treasury and U.S. Department of Education
    • Need to work better with public schools—free lunch program is a good barometer for who should qualify
    • Consolidate forms for federal aid/taxes that accomplish multiple purposes
    • Consider using ombudsman to assist people in dealing with process
    • Dual-credit costs—who covers and when? If no school district support, why not federal/state programs start earlier to cover such costs? Pell Grants, etc?
    • Rural community colleges don’t have faculty or tax base to provide free services for dual-credit.
    • Need to complete application of Seniors in high school and write off previous year’s Pell Grant and get enrolled in summer.
  2. State Financial Aid Background
    1. Total cost vs. Tuition/Fees

      Transportation, living expenses are part of cost—not always factored in—need to factor in total costs.

    2. Unmet need

      All community college costs aid only hits 50% of total cost—General Academic Teaching Institutions and private institutions have much higher percentage financial aid layer.

    3. State vs. Federal funds balance

      Don’t reallocate funds—creates more problems than solutions

      Ninety-four percent of community college aid coming from federal

      closer split of state vs. fed at General Academic Teaching Institutions

      need to grow pool of funding

    4. Major state programs
      • Five programs: Texas Equal Opportunity Grant (TEOG), TEXAS Grants, Texas Equalization Grant (TEG), and Work-Study
      • Community colleges get very little TEXAS Grants; community college students would benefit if restructure the program and provide incentives for transfers
      • Community colleges get less than 10% of all state aid
      • TEXAS Grants not pushed out fast enough
      • Grade point average requirements a barrier (2.5 GPA too high)—2.0 is good standing at most institutions.
      • TEOG is not a guarantee of TEXAS Grant if transfer—maybe provide a direct link and allow for guarantee.
      • Recommended High School Program creates a barrier to TEXAS Grants and that is a problem
      • Need institutions to help keep cost down
      • Guarantee tuition and fees for all 4 years…freeze tuition to provide planning horizon—some have tried and want to get away from it.
      • Is there waste in the curriculum…need to change the way we think to look for waste and cut costs in operations, etc.
      • Books are an issue on cost and financial aid impact—consider reform to cut costs.
    5. Statewide solutions

      Texas Public Education Grant (TPEG) money very important and should be able to use as appropriate and needed.

  3. Individual/Partnering Strategies
    • FAFSA counseling in Spanish
    • Counseling to facilitate carrying financial aid between institutions
    • Community college financial aid personnel interaction with General Academic Teaching Institution financial aid personnel—facilitate discussion of problems and solutions
    • CB developing financial aid module on common application to facilitate financial aid information flow for new and transfer students
    • Work closer with high schools; both community colleges and four-year institutions must present united message on transfer policy and financial aid
    • Cost-share on employees between community colleges and four-year institutions; e.g. employee at 4-year is financed in part by feeder community colleges and help with transfer/financial aid issues
    • Shared counseling program with high schools that works with community colleges and four-year institutions
    • Need to make process more “human” for those cultural backgrounds that mistrust institutions that create natural barriers to getting students to apply; create relationship with these populations (e.g. counselor and parents)
    • Create endowments for transfer students from feeder community colleges
    • Set specific financial aid levels that reward transfers on a tiered system
    • Community colleges need to work with four-year institutions to develop more BAS programs that can be co-located at community colleges
    • Synergy with feeder community college and four-year institutions—early contact between student and advisors
    • Short term money a problem for many first-generation students; community college foundation is important to help deal with these student issues
    • Include financial aid for middle-income transfers
    • Provide scholarship information to students to increase awareness
    • Go to community groups and churches to promote funding opportunities
    • Increase marketing of federal programs
    • College presidents and other key staff need better understanding of financial aid—cross training
    • Integrate admissions and financial aid
    • Training recipients on money management
    • Look at disbursement of money—all up front or issued over semester
    • Develop intuitive online financial aid applications that help generate student financial aid packages that incorporate federal, state, and institutional aid; also create online verification form as well
    • Need to identify financial aid best practices with statewide discussion on issues and solutions.
    • Do financial aid training sessions at key conferences and meetings around state for key constituency—focus on best practices.

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