Rebate helps students affected by financial aid cuts
Published: Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05
UTEP has implemented a new rebate program to entice students to take summer courses while saving a couple hundred dollars.
With the summer tuition rebate, students who take more than six credit hours during the summer terms are eligible to receive a rebate, starting at $104, based on the number of credit hours taken. This money can be used for expenses in the fall semester, such as payment for classes or textbooks.
This rebate may prove beneficiary to students after the latest federal and in state-level student funding cuts in programs such as the Texas Grant and the Pell Grant.
The need based Texas Grant is meant to help students offset tuition so that they may attend the school of their choice. However, the state’s main funding source for students with financial need to pay for higher education lost $14 million last year, according to Craig Westman, associate provost for Enrollment Services.
The federal government also reduced the Pell Grant, another need based grant for low income individuals, which resulted in a $5 million cut for the summer, impacting 3,100 students at the university, said Westman. Thus, the summer tuition rebate was put in effect to help students at the university who are being affected by these cuts.
“With the Pell Grant, the federal government stopped the year round Pell, which we have had in previous summers, and told students that they could have 18 full Pells to use year-round,” Westman said. “The money dried up quickly.”
For students to be eligible to receive a full Pell Grant their family income needed to be $30,000 or less. However, the federal government has brought the limit down to $23,000, which will take effect the fall semester.
“Seventy-three percent of our students receive some form of assistance and 61 percent of them receive the Pell,” Westman said. “We have a high need base here in this area and when they start doing that to our students it has a really big impact on our student population.”
But Westman said that the rebate program is helping counter those cuts, while enjoying popularity among students and their families.
“Right now, it has been promising,” Westman said. “We have had parents and students call and tell us how much they like this new rebate. They have even said how they’ll have their child take an extra class just so they can take advantage of this opportunity.”
Along with the summer tuition rebate, members of the tuition and fees committee realized that students were requesting more course offerings for summer terms and implemented their suggestions. This increase in course offerings will give students more opportunities to catch up in their degree plan or stay ahead for an earlier graduation. However, some students will not be able to take advantage of the new program.
“I’m currently doing an internship and I also have to study for the MCAT so I could only take two summer classes,” said Sarah Abu-Issa, junior biology and pre-medicine major. “I didn’t want to overwhelm myself with another class.”
Like Abu-Issa, students have other priorities that keep them from taking that extra class which will enable them to save money for the fall semester.
“I am only taking two classes this summer because I couldn’t afford another class,” said Christian Juarez, junior media advertising major. “Even though getting money back is nice, the idea of paying for another class does sting when you’re unemployed.”
After census day for the second summer session, authorities would be able to assess how many students took advantage of the summer rebate.
“This is the first time we have done something innovative like this,” Westman said. “We’re going to craft something to send out to different groups after the summer sessions have ended and see what changes or additions the students would like to see—this is very important.”
Westman said this is a great opportunity for students to stay on track for degree completion and to get prerequisites out of the way.
“You can save money and time which is a big thing for students; the university wants to help students defer costs and help them realize the savings and time, as well as the increase in course offerings that have been made.”
To see the exact amount of savings for any given credit hour taken, students can visit www.utep.edu/thinksummer.
Lorain Watters may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.