Student Aid in Texas Higher Ed Sheds Light on National Trends

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Staff Reporter

A newly released Texas-based publication is seeking to jumpstart discussions into the need for federal student aid programs by highlighting trends on the state’s higher education landscape, touching on access to federal aid, affordability metrics, and enrollment.

The report, which is issued annually by Trellis Research, provides a comparison of Texas state and federal student aid programs by analyzing data on a variety of student finance topics, including higher education, demographic projections, college costs, student loan repayment outcomes, and higher education policy.

Among the main findings, the report found that the most heavily populated regions of the state — the Central Texas, Gulf Coast, and Metroplex regions — are slated to receive nearly three-quarters of both the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the  Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 funding allocations in Texas.

“The funding provided by the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund has enabled institutions to maintain crucial educational services and help students meet their pressing basic needs,” Carla Fletcher, senior research analyst at Trellis and lead author of the report, said in a press release. “However, many students and institutions continue to struggle. In the coming months, we will learn if these federal relief efforts are enough to keep students enrolled.”

On the affordability front, the publication found that based on 2018-19 costs, a student would have to work 68 hours per week at a minimum wage job to pay for their education at a Texas public university solely through work earnings.

Texas students are highly reliant on federal aid, the majority of which comes in the form of grants. According to the paper, about 172,000 Texas students benefited from various institutional exemption and waiver programs.

The federal Pell Grant program is the largest source of grant aid in Texas, awarding about 519,000 undergraduate students more than $2.1 billion in award year 2018-19, with the average Pell Grant in Texas covering 19% of the average cost of attendance at public institutions.

Student loan debt ranks as the third largest type of consumer debt in Texas, behind mortgage and auto debt, and from 2017 through 2018 the state saw an increase in student lending activity.

While this publication focuses solely on Texas, Trellis’ primary goal of the publication is for it to serve as a reference for colleges, universities, and policymakers and generate healthy discussions based on a common understanding of the facts.

“The significant impact of this pandemic and resulting economic downturn on Texas’ students, educators, and institutions has been felt statewide,” Renard Johnson, interim president and CEO of Trellis Company, in a release. “While relief-related funding has provided some short-term support, the [State of Student Aid report] is a valuable tool to ground policy discussions in facts and to inspire solutions as we work together on longer-term recovery efforts that steer Texas into a brighter future.”


Publication Date: 3/25/2021

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