UT System Regents establish endowment to expand tuition assistance

The UT System Board of Regents and Chancellor James B. Milliken announced Thursday the creation of a $300 million endowment to help undergraduate students at UT institutions pay for college.

The “Promise Plus” program will provide tuition assistance to eligible students at seven UT institutions: UT Arlington, UT Dallas, UT El Paso, UT Permian Basin, UT Rio Grande Valley, UT San Antonio and UT Tyler. In 2019, regents created a $167 million endowment to provide a significant increase in tuition support for students at UT Austin.

The funding for the Promise Plus endowment was generated by a series of prudent investments by UT System financial officers that produced higher-than-expected returns over the past fiscal year. None of the funding comes from the Permanent University Fund or Available University Fund, which are restricted in use and purpose, a news release said.

The Board of Regents approved the creation of the endowment at its meeting Thursday.

“We are committed to increasing the affordability of a college education for more Texans by lowering the out-of-pocket cost of a UT degree for qualified students,” Board Chairman Kevin P. Eltife said in the release. “This is an investment in our students, in public higher education and the state of Texas.”

Every UT academic institution has a program that covers 100 percent of students’ tuition and mandatory fees, depending on family income. Funds from these programs generally are used to supplement federal and state aid such as Pell grants and TEXAS grants.

With additional funding from the Promise Plus program, UT institutions will be able to raise the income threshold, meaning they can help more students cover the full cost of tuition. For instance, if a UT institution has a tuition relief program for students whose families earn $70,000 or less, Promise Plus funding would increase the income threshold, potentially expanding tuition-free eligibility to students from households earning $80,000 or less.

The Promise Plus program will generate about $15 million this year, which will be distributed to the seven institutions to provide tuition relief. Individual institutions will receive a minimum of $1 million this year, based on the number of students enrolled with financial need. The endowment is expected to grow in value over time, increasing the annual allocations to the institutions accordingly each year.

Only full-time, undergraduate students who are Texas residents, fill out the FAFSA and qualify for need-based aid are eligible to receive Promise Plus funds. Individual institutions may have additional criteria and will be determining how many students will be served by the Promise Plus funding.

Over the next month, Chancellor Milliken, Chairman Eltife and the regents will be visiting all seven campuses to announce each institution’s Promise Plus allocation and more details about the UT System’s commitment to affordability and access.