Lone Star Alert – UNT offers free tuition*
Gretchen Bataille wants to send a message to high school seniors: College is not out of the question, even for students from families with modest means.
“People who consider themselves poor don’t even think about college, because they see that as something they can’t afford,” said Dr. Bataille, president of the University of North Texas. That perception needs to change, she says, and a new scholarship program at the school should help.
This fall, an estimated 400 freshmen will become the first class of UNT’s Emerald Eagle Scholars, a program that pays four years’ tuition and fees *for students whose families’ annual adjusted gross income is $40,000 or less.
Since Dr. Bataille announced the program in April, students and high school guidance counselors have praised it. “We’ve got soaring prices, and parents are looking for any way possible to pay for college,” said Debbie Grindle, a guidance counselor at Guyer High School in the Denton school district. “I know it [the scholarship program] has had a very positive effect. It’s been very well received.”Most students in the program’s financial bracket qualify for federal and state aid already, so UNT needs only to make up the difference between financial aid and the cost of tuition and fees. By state law, UNT dedicates a portion of its tuition revenue to need-based financial aid.
Last year, that amounted to about $5.4 million, said Phil Diebel, UNT’s vice president for finance and business affairs. UNT leaders now expect to add about $1.4 million to that sum next fiscal year, which starts in September.
Dr. Bataille said UNT’s program resembles those at Texas Tech and other schools around the country. But many of those programs are simply handouts, she said. UNT’s program will require students to be part of a mentorship program, learn about money management and work on campus.
It’s a program UNT leaders refer to as community engagement. “We’re investing in them, and we want to make sure they succeed,” Dr. Bataille said.
Troy Johnson, associate vice president for enrollment management, said those “community engagement” programs are still being developed and will be ready for this fall. “Our program is anchored in student success, not solely in financial aid,” Mr. Johnson said.
“Students in this program are expected to be actively engaged in their education.” The Emerald Eagle Scholars program won’t pay for housing, Mr. Johnson said, but his office is seeking grants to provide at least some financial aid for that, too.
Students in the program must be full-time students enrolling in college for the first time and taking at least 15 credit hours each semester. The scholarship is good for four years, as long as the student meets all the criteria and stays on track to graduate in that time.
And while students with a family income of $41,000 won’t qualify as Emerald Eagle Scholars, they could still qualify for financial aid, Mr. Johnson said. UNT’s tuition and fees are expected to cost $3,196 for students who take 15 credit hours this fall.
Dr. Bataille raised more than $350,000 for the Emerald Eagle Scholars program during her inauguration ball on April 13. That money will go into an endowment fund, which will grow with interest. That interest won’t come close to paying for the entire scholarship program, but it gives university leaders a way to keep the scholarship topic in front of potential donors, Dr. Bataille said.
Because of the inaugural ball’s success, the university is planning another formal ball for early March. “This is a way of drawing attention to students’ needs each year,” Dr. Bataille said. “We’ll price the tickets high enough that it will raise a significant amount. We’ll keep the issue in front of people.”