higher ed

University of Texas at Austin to provide free tuition to families making less than $65,000

The new endowment will be available beginning in fall 2020. University of Texas at Austin/Facebook

The University of Texas at Austin is taking a big step to combat the increasing costs of higher education. On July 9, the system's Board of Regents voted to establish a $160 million endowment to help Texas families ease the burden of funding a UT education.

Beginning in fall 2020, the endowment will cover in-state tuition and fees for students from families that earn up to $65,000 a year, or about 8,600 undergraduates a year. (Texas' median income was $59,206 in 2017, according to the most recent available numbers.)

Under the current Texas Advance Commitment, full tuition is only provided to families earning up to $30,000 per year.

Along with covering costs for families making $65,000 or less, the new endowment will provide "tuition support" for families making $125,000 or less, or about 5,700 students.

The $160 million endowment is a distribution of the state's Permanent University Fund, which "includes money from oil and gas royalties earned on state-owned land in West Texas," according to a release.

"There is no greater engine of social and economic mobility than a college degree, and this initiative ensures that more Texans will benefit from a high-quality UT Austin education," said Chancellor James B. Milliken, in a release.

The decision is undoubtedly a banner one for UT President Gregory Fenves, who has spent the majority of his tenure working on affordability issues. In a release, Fenves echoed Milliken, calling the fund an "invest[ment] in the future of our great state."

"I am grateful to the UT System Board of Regents and Chairman Kevin Eltife for prioritizing students and investing in the future of our great state," said Fenves. "This new endowment will go a long way toward making our university affordable for talented Texas students from every background and region."

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This story originally appeared on CultureMap.

U.S. News & World Report's 2020 Best Colleges ranking puts Rice University in first place for the state. Courtesy of Rice University

It's not breaking news, but it's always fun to hear: Rice University isn't just the best college in Texas, it stands above most in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report's latest ranking.

On September 9, the publication released its annual 2020 Best Colleges report, comparing nearly 1,400 schools around the country.

Rice University is once again tops in Texas and No. 17 in the nation, tying with Cornell University and slipping one spot on the national ranking from 2018. The University of Texas at Austin ranks No. 2 in Texas, behind Rice for the second year in a row, and No. 48 in the nation.

U.S. News broke down ranking metrics like a classic syllabus. Each school was graded across six categories, weighing outcomes (graduation and retention rates, social mobility, etc.) the heaviest at 35 percent. Faculty resources and expert opinion of schools each accounted for 20 percent of scores, followed by financial resources and student excellence at 10 percent each and alumni giving at 5 percent.

The publication also brought some new rankings to the table this year, including Top Performers on Social Mobility, which analyzes schools based on which ones best serve underrepresented students, looking at Pell Grants and enrollment and graduation rates of students from low-income backgrounds. Rice ranks No. 204 on that list.

Rice placed highly on some of U.S. News' new rankings for programs students should look out for, including learning communities (No. 13), senior capstone (No. 20), and undergraduate research/creative projects (No. 34).

Nationwide, the Ivies continue their dominance atop the list. Princeton University is the best university in America, followed by Harvard University (No. 2) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale University, which tied for third.

In Texas, Southern Methodist University (No. 64), Texas A&M University (No. 70), and Baylor University (No. 79), round out the top five schools in Texas.

Locally, the University of Houston ranks 185th nationally. In the Regional Universities West ranking, the University of St. Thomas comes in 19th, the University of Houston—Clear Lake takes the 43rd spot, and Houston Baptist University lands at No. 61.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.