McALLEN — Financial aid representatives at the Rio Grande Valley’s two four-year institutions said Monday they do not know how much will be available to give students who qualified this fall for the interest-free Texas B On Time Loan Program.
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has $41 million for the 2007-08 academic year to help almost 10,000 students returning to classes under the program. In fiscal year 2007, the board used $76 million to help 14,074 students who qualified for loan money because they graduated from high school after 2003 and were eligible to receive federal financial aid.
Some 4,000 students graduated, did not return to classes or did not meet program qualifications. There is less money because the board refinanced last year a state low-interest student loan program and used the one-time money to help more students.
The program’s traditional financial source has been a portion of student tuition from the state’s public four-year institutions sent to the coordinating board to disperse. The state Legislature even contributed for the first time to create $77 million for fiscal years 2008 and 2009.
“There were no cuts, there were no reductions, the program is not being eliminated,” said Dominic Chavez, the coordinating board’s assistant director of state relations in Austin. “That is a decision the Legislature made given all the other items we need to fund.”
Bill Morley, the University of Texas–Pan American’s assistant director of financial aid, said last year the institution received $2.1 million for about 400 students. He said the 273 returning program students will get money, but if any was left over, it would go to first-time applicants who applied the quickest for state and federal funding by March 1.
Any further students left in the financial cold would be advised to look at other financial sources.
Morley said his office has received few calls from students about the program funding.
But students have called the University of Texas-Brownsville’s financial aid office wanting more information. Mari Chapa, financial aid director, said about 27 students were anticipated to return to classes because of program funding this fall.
The institution received $82,000 last year for 32 qualifying students.
Chapa said financial aid staff will encourage students who might not get money to apply now for state and federal financial aid.
“I think the ones that will be affected will be at the largest institutions rather than us,” she said. “We don’t have that many participants.”
Chavez said universities will receive notifications soon about how much program money they will get.
Daniel Perry covers education and general assignments for The Monitor. You can reach him at (956) 683-4454. For this and other stories, visit www.themonitor.com.