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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

 
 

Growing Houston blockchain startup has raised $4 million to go toward supporting sales growth. Graphic courtesy of Data Gumbo

An industrial blockchain-as-a-service startup based in Houston has closed a series B funding round thanks to support from both new and returning investors.

Data Gumbo Corp., which uses its blockchain network GumboNet to optimize smart contracts for oil and gas supply chains, announced its first close in its $4 million series B funding round that was led by new investor L37, which has operations in the Bay Area and in Houston. The round also saw contribution from returning investors Equinor Ventures and Saudi Aramco Energy Venture.

The funds will go toward growing Data Gumbo's sales team, which has been busy with the company's growth. While providing their own set of challenges and obstacles, both the pandemic and drop in oil prices meant oil and gas companies are prioritizing lean operations — something DataGumbo is able to help with.

"The opportunity in all this is companies have got to cut expenses," Andrew Bruce, CEO and founder, tells InnovationMap. "What's happened to us is our sales have absolutely exploded — in a good way. We have a huge number of leads, and we have to be able to deliver on those leads."

Bruce says leading the sales growth is Bill Arend, who was hired Data Gumbo's chief commercial officer this spring. Data Gumbo also recently announced that Richard Dobbs, 30-year veteran of McKinsey and former director of the McKinsey Global Institute, has joined the board as chairman.

"Dobbs is a recognized strategic industry thinker," Bruce says in a release. "His distinct expertise will lend structure, support and validation to Data Gumbo as we experience aggressive company growth."

Of course, fundraising in this unprecedented time, isn't easy. Bruce says he and his team were able to succeed thanks to a new investor, L37, which came from an introduction within Bruce's network.

"Data Gumbo is the category leader for industrial smart contracts, which is an inevitable next step in digital transformation of the oil and gas industry," says Kemal Farid, a partner in L37, in a statement. "There is a lack of transparency, visibility and accuracy between counterparts of contracts that increases the costs of doing business and this has been greatly exacerbated by the current business landscape. We look forward to applying our experience to propel the company along its journey to bring transactional certainty and cost efficiency to commercial relationships."

Additionally, Bruce says he's very proud of his company's return investors, who are also clients of DataGumbo.

"[We also have] the continuous support by our original investors — Aramco and Equinor — they invested in us not just once but twice," Bruce says. "They have been tremendously supportive, not just from an investor perspective, but also proving the value. We've got multiple projects starting with both of those companies."

Bruce says he already has eyes for another venture capital round — perhaps sometime next year — for Data Gumbo, which has raised $14.8 million to date. However, the company isn't far from profitability and growth from that avenue too.

"We're going to have the luxury of choice," Bruce says. "We want to grow as aggressively as possible so we are probably going to go the venture capital route."

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