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New UT Arlington program offers free admission to low-income students

A tower lit by blue and orange lights displays the University of Texas at Arlington logo as an entry into the campus.
Elias Valverde II
The Shorthorn
The campus of the University of Texas at Arlington.

The initiative will cover 100% of the tuition and fees for eligible undergraduate students, in an effort to make higher education more accessible.

The University of Texas at Arlington is launching the new “Blaze Forward” program to make higher education more accessible to low-income families.

“This program is going to demystify college costs for a population of families and students that need assistance,” said Troy Johnson, vice president of enrollment management at UTA. “So they don’t have to worry about whether or how much to come up with to pay tuition and fees. That’s really, in short, very powerful.”

Eligible students must be Texas residents, enrolled full time and come from families whose adjusted gross income is $85,000 a year or less. New and transfer students can qualify, as long as they stay on track to graduate on time.

Johnson said students won’t have to jump through any extra hoops to apply because it’s baked right into the existing admissions process.

“One of our goals, especially for low-income, first generation students, is to remove barriers,” he said. “So we sat down and said, ‘How can we do this without asking anything more from parents and students?’ who are frankly overwhelmed by the college-going process.”

Johnson said students just need to submit the normal financial aid forms once they’re admitted. Then the school will assess their eligibility and automatically qualify them for the grants if they meet the requirements.

Students already enrolled at UTA will automatically be considered for the program.

The goal is to encourage more students to pursue college even if it’s outside of their means, but Johnson said he also hopes the program will improve graduation rates.

“National and local research is showing that low-income students are the most affected in terms of their inability to continue in college at the same rates they used to before the pandemic,” he said. “This should shore that back up, and not only bring those students back … but hopefully it will just continue to increase their overall graduation rates over time.”

The program is funded through the “Promise Plus” endowment from the UT System Board of Regents, meant to reduce the cost of higher education for undergraduate students and their families across UT System schools.

“Financial challenges should never stand in the way of any Texan who wishes to earn a high-quality UT degree,” said UT System Chancellor James Milliken. “UT Arlington graduates offer essential expertise to Texas’ strong and competitive economy, and we hope the Promise Plus program makes their educational path financially easier.”

The Blaze Forward initiative will begin in the fall 2022 academic semester and is expected to cover tuition and fees for roughly 4,000 students.

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Rebekah Morr is KERA's All Things Considered newscaster and producer. She came to KERA from NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., where she worked as a news assistant at Weekend All Things Considered.