A bill crafted to make sure tuition waivers and exemptions for public universities share the same requirements on making satisfactory academic progress passed the Senate unanimously, but only after three amendments carved out exceptions.
Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, authored Senate Bill 1210 at the request of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Dominic Chavez, spokesperson for the board, said that although students receiving other forms of financial aid are required to maintain at least a fair GPA and not take an excessive number of credits outside their degree program, most tuition waivers and exemptions didn’t have similar standards.
“In a lot of cases, they have to earn a 2.5 GPA and complete a certain number of courses they attempt. It’s not asking them to be an honor roll student,” Chavez said. “The institutions are, basically, eating the cost of tuition and fees for these students. It makes sense you don’t want to continue paying for extra courses way beyond what’s needed for a degree.”
The board reports that in fiscal year 2012, public universities lost $177.6 million in tuition and fees because about 88,000 waivers or exemptions were granted to students. The fiscal note for SB 1210 estimates about $15.0 million could be recovered in fiscal year 2015.
It also estimates that up to 15 percent of current recipients would lose their waivers or exemptions. While some would remain enrolled, the legislative budget board estimates the state would save at least $1.3 million annually because of students who would leave college after losing a waiver.