AUSTIN, Texas—As president of a large public university, I am aware of the concerns of parents and students about the cost of a college education. To be sure, earning a college degree requires a major investment of time, money and effort. However, while the benefits of higher education are invaluable, its cost often is overstated in the media — especially the cost of attending a state university. This leads to a public perception that, for many people, college is out of reach.
There are numerous ways to pay for college, and here in Texas we have access to some of the nation’s best bargains in higher education.
First, let’s consider total student cost for undergraduate education at The University of Texas at Austin. Texas residents who lived on campus spent about $11,000 during the 1997-98 academic year for tuition, fees, room and board, books, supplies and other living expenses. However, only about half of that amount was for direct educational costs. The remainder went toward room and board, expenses that exist at some level for everyone, whether in college or not. In addition, approximately half of the undergraduate students at UT Austin received an average of $3,500 in total grant and scholarship aid, reducing out-of-pocket cost to about $7,500. Students loans, which defer costs, further lowered the immediate out-of-pocket expense to $2,750. These figures are below the national average for the cost of an education at a public university. Furthermore, some other Texas public institutions are even less expensive.
Second, financial aid is not limited to low-income households. Seven out of 10 full-time students receive some form of financial aid, according to the American Council on Education. On average, grants cover 20 percent of the student budget for full-time students in the United States. When loans and work-study assistance are included, financial aid covers 40 percent of the budget. Many financial aid programs are available to assist middle-income families.
What are we doing at UT Austin to make sure Texas families are aware of the opportunities in higher education? Last week I hosted more than 1,000 families at an event we call Longhorn Saturday. Students and their parents are invited to Austin for a day of tours and presentations on academics, campus life, financial aid, housing and other subjects. This week, I will visit three high schools in San Antonio, as well as Roma High School in the Rio Grande Valley as part of an ongoing series of trips to high schools throughout Texas. I will speak on the importance of a college education and the scholarship support available at UT Austin. In the 1999-2000 academic year, for example, UT Austin will administer $175 million in total financial aid to students.
Without question, college is an expensive enterprise. But Texans have many options within the public and private institutions of higher learning. National College Week is being observed Nov. 15-19. The Coalition of America’s Colleges and Universities has created an informative website on making college affordable: http://www.CollegeIsPossible.org. For information about financial aid at The University of Texas at Austin, visit us at our website: http://www.utexas.edu. College may be more affordable than you think.