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University of Houston announces free tuition program for lower-income students

Students from certain backgrounds can attend UH for free this fall. Photo courtesy of University of Houston

A major Houston hall of higher education is making national news for its goodwill towards students from low-and-middle-class backgrounds.

The University of Houston announced a new initiative, Cougar Promise, that guarantees tuition and mandatory fees will be covered for eligible freshmen from families with adjusted gross incomes up to $65,000. Students admitted by January 15 who are starting in the fall and who demonstrate financial need are eligible for the program. The program has been covered by CNN and Yahoo News.

As an added effort to assist more students, eligible freshmen from families with adjusted gross incomes between $65,001 and $125,000 will be eligible for tuition support ranging from $500 to $2,000 per year. The assistance is significant, as UH tuition can range from $5,000 to $7,000 per term. Some 74 percent of UH undergraduate students receive some form of financial assistance, according to the university.

The Cougar Promise income threshold has more than doubled since the program started in 2008 when only students with family incomes up to $30,000 were eligible.

"Making college education affordable and accessible is at the foundation of our mission and critical for so many aspiring students across the income spectrum," says Renu Khator, University of Houston president, in a statement. "By expanding our financial support program to reduce financial barriers, we will help more students fulfill their dreams of earning a college degree."

UH's famous booster and benefactor, billionaire Tilman Fertitta, voiced his support of the program. "Your family's income bracket shouldn't limit your ability to achieve a college degree," said Fertitta, UH's chairman of the UHS Board of Regents. "Talented people come from all socioeconomic backgrounds, so I'm thrilled there will be more financial aid available for those UH students who need it most."

This isn't the first time a Houston university has made a bold move to help students in need. In 2018, Rice University made headlines for a program offering free and low-cost tuition to students from middle-class families.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

This Houston staffing firm has tapped into tech to support the growing gig economy workforce. Photo via Getty Images

As the independent workforce continues to grow, a Houston-based company is aiming to connect these workers with companies that match their specific needs with a new digital platform.

FlexTek, a 14-year old recruiting and staffing company, launched a first gig site tailored to the needs of the individual worker. The platform, Workz360, is built to be able to manage projects, maintain quality control, and manage billing and year-end financial reporting.The company is also working to expanding the platform to provide infrastructure to assist independent workers with education, access to savings programs, tax compliance through vetted third-party CPA firms, and hopes in the future to assist with access to liability and medical insurance.

With a younger workforce and a shifting economy, the “gig economy,” which is another way to describe how people can earn a living as a 1099 worker, offers an alternative option to the corporate grind in a post-pandemic workscape. Chief Marketing Officer Bill Penczak of Workz360 calls this era “Gig 2.0,” and attributes the success of this type of workforce to how during the COVID-19 pandemic people learned how to work, and thrive in non-traditional work environments. The site also boasts the fact it won’t take a bite out of the worker’s pay, which could be an attractive sell for many since other sites can take up to 65 percent of profit.

“In the past few years, with the advent of gig job platforms, the Independent workers have been squeezed by gig work platforms taking a disproportionate amount of the workers’ income,” said FlexTek CEO and founder Stephen Morel in a news release. “As a result, there has been what we refer to as ‘pay padding,’ a phenomenon in which workers are raising their hourly or project rates to compensate for the bite taken by other platforms.

"Workz360 is designed to promote greater transparency, and we believe the net result will be for workers to thrive and companies to save money by using the platform,” he continues.

As the workforce has continued to change over the years, a third of the current U.S. workforce are independent workers according to FlexTek, workers have gained the ability to have more freedom where and how they work. Workz360 aims to cater to this workforce by believing in a simple mantra of treating your workers well.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations about this, but we like the Southwest Airlines model,” Penczak tells InnovationMap. “Southwest Airlines treats their people very well, and as a result those employees treat the passengers really well. We believe the same thing holds true. If we can provide resources, and transparency, and not take a bite out of what the gig worker is charging, then we will get the best and the brightest people since they feel like they won’t be taken advantage of. We think there is an opportunity to be a little different and put the people first.”

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