The University of Texas at San Antonio will cover tuition and fees for first-year students with family income up to $70,000 starting in fall 2022, expanding the university’s tuition-free program that launched in 2019.

This is the first time UTSA has increased the Bold Promise program’s family income eligibility threshold, which started at $50,500. Almost 1,800 students have qualified for the program since its inception, said Lynn Barnes, UTSA senior vice provost for strategic enrollment.

To qualify, students must be recent graduates of a Texas high school who were ranked in the top 25% of their class, and they must take at least 12 credit hours each semester. They must have completed the free application for federal student aid and be admitted to UTSA by Jan. 15.

The program covers all tuition and fees for four consecutive years after other financial aid has been applied to a student’s account, but it does not pay for meals or housing, Barnes said.

Average tuition and fees at UTSA costs roughly $9,700 annually, according to the 2020 Texas Public Higher Education Almanac.

UTSA decided to expand the Bold Promise program to “cast a wider net and bring more students into the program,” Barnes said. This higher income eligibility level will open up the program to a “few hundred more students.”

“We want to help as many students as possible,” he said. “This is great news for families who have young students, maybe starting off their high school years to know in their minds that ‘if I do well and stay engaged I can very well go to college and at least have tuition and fees covered.'”

The University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley also recently announced it would raise its family income threshold — to $100,000, the highest income level for a tuition assistance program at a Texas public university, The Texas Tribune reported.

Barnes said UTSA would continue to look for ways to expand its family income threshold to get closer to UTRGV’s, but the Rio Grande campus has a larger student population that qualifies for its tuition assistance program and receives more state and federal financial aid dollars than UTSA students. Those dollars help offset the cost of the program.

Almost 45% of UTSA students receive need-based federal Pell Grants, compared to 63% of UTRGV students, according to the Texas Public Higher Education Almanac.

In the next year, UTSA hopes to offer the Bold Promise program to transfer students, who would also have similar income eligibility and credit hour requirements, as well as a grade point average standard, Barnes said.

The Alamo Colleges District offers a similar program for high school seniors who graduate from 36 participating high schools in San Antonio. Launched in 2020, the Alamo Promise program is a last-dollar scholarship initiative that covers students’ tuition and fees for up to three years or until they complete an associate degree. About 3,000 students participated in the Alamo Promise program in its first year.

Brooke Crum

Brooke Crum is the San Antonio Report's education reporter.