Someone very famous once said: “No one gets a free ride.” More than likely, they were probably not talking about colleges in Texas.
As it turns out, several four-year and two-year colleges in Texas offer students a free ride. Most of these programs have an income eligibility, with the majority targeting students from low-income and middle-income families. As the name implies, "tuition-free" college programs often don't cover anything beyond tuition. Rice University's program is one of the few exceptions, it covers room and board plus it's open to non-Texas residents.
Most of the programs below are only open to incoming freshmen with a few available to transfer students. Now, drum roll please ... here is the list of twelve (12) “free tuition” programs in Texas:
1. Dallas College District | Dallas, TX
Dallas County Promise: This "free tuition" program is available to high school graduates from 65+ participating Promise High Schools in Dallas County. It covers the cost of tuition not covered by federal and state financial aid.
Students can participate in this program at any partner college, although most students must start their undergraduate career at one of Dallas College's campus then transfer to a partner school. For those students who graduate from a collegiate high school (earning an Associates degree while in high school), they can go directly to one of the 4-year partner colleges and benefit from the Dallas County Promise scholarships.
However, be aware that some 4-year partner colleges offer limited Dallas County Promise scholarships. Those colleges include The University of North Texas, Southern Methodist University, and Austin College.
Students must apply to participate in the Dallas County Promise program which covers college tuition not met by other federal, state and institutional grants and scholarships (gift aid) at partner colleges. The program is funded through Dallas College Foundation and includes a Success Coach component.
The partner colleges include Dallas College, Texas A&M University-Commerce, Texas A&M University-Texarkana, Midwestern State University, and Southern Methodist University. Students are able to enter or transfer to most of the partner colleges tuition-free based on income eligibility (family income of $50,000 or less). For more information, please visit Dallas County Promise.
- Open to all high school graduates from 65+ participating Promise High Schools in Dallas County.
- Application required. High school seniors must apply to participate in this program around the same time they are applying to college. Applications open around September each year and closes around February. However, you have to meet a number of milestones in between.
- Students who graduate high school with a high school diploma or an Associates Degree (collegiate high school graduates) can apply to attend one of the partner colleges.
2. Rice University | Houston, TX
The Rice Investment: Rice University offers some of the most generous financial aid to low- and middle-income families. Rice expanded this program in 2021 and students with family income below $75,000 will now receive funds to cover tuition, fees, room, and board. While those students from families between $75,000 and $140,000 get their full tuition covered.
In addition, Rice University is also one of only a few colleges that is considered a no-loan university. This means if you are fortunate enough to be accepted and is eligible for financial aid, you will receive a financial aid package without any loans.
- Income below $75,000: free tuition, and room & board; income between $75,000 and $140,000: full tuition support; income between $140,000 and $200,000 – 50% tuition discount.
- Submit completed FAFSA and CSS Profile.
- International students are not eligible for The Rice Investment but might be eligible to apply for other need-based financial aid.
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3. Texas A&M University College-Station, TX
Aggie Assurance: (Whoop!) This "free tuition" program open to incoming freshmen and transfer students covers tuition costs for future Aggies.
- Income below $60,000: Grants and Scholarships to meet the tuition costs; income between $60,001 and $130,000: some tuition support.
- The program does not cover room and board and fees.
- Students must be eligible for the federal Pell Grant.
- Submit completed FAFSA or TASFA by April 15.
4. Texas Tech University | Lubbock, TX
Red Raider Guarantee: This free tuition plan guarantees tuition and mandatory fees (based on 30 credit hours per academic school year) to new entering freshmen and transfer students with an Associate’s degree.
- Family must have an adjusted gross income of $60,000 or below.
- Student must be enrolled full time (12 hours or more each semester – Fall/Spring only).
- Student must be Texas resident and submit a FAFSA or TASFA.
- Covers up to eight semesters of full time enrollment for freshmen and up to four semesters for transfer students.
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5. University of Houston | Houston, TX
Cougar Promise: Guaranteed free tuition for new freshmen starting in Fall 2019.
- Students from families with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $65,000 and below: 100% free tuition; families with AGI of $65,001 to $125,000 will receive tuition support.
- Students must submit a completed FAFSA or TASFA by January 15.
- Must be an entering freshman and qualify as a Texas resident.
6. University of Texas at Dallas | Richardson, TX
Tuition Promise: The "free tuition" program is available for first-time students.
- Students from families earning $65,000 or less receive 100% free tuition.
- Students must submit a completed FAFSA or TASFA by January 15.
- Must be a Texas resident at time of admission.
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7. University of Texas at Austin | Austin, TX
Texas Advance Commitment: Beginning in Fall 2020, the university will offer free tuition to students with household income of $65,000 or less. The university also provides partial tuition support for families earning up to $125,000.
- Student from family with income up to $65,000 receive 100% free tuition.
- Student from family with income up to $125,00 receive partial tuition support.
- Must be a Texas resident and Pell Grant eligible.
- Submit a FAFSA or TASFA.
- Have demonstrated financial need.
8. Lamar University | Beaumont, TX
Lamar Promise: This free tuition program is available to entering freshman and transfer students.
- Student from family with income of $40,000 or less.
- Must be eligible for full Pell Grant.
- Must be a dependent student (per FAFSA) and eligible for Texas in-state tuition.
- Must complete FAFSA or TASFA Available for up to four years.
9. Stephen F. Austin University | Nacogdoches, TX
Purple Promise Guarantee Program: This free tuition program is a "last-dollar" program that pays any tuition costs not covered by other grants and scholarships.
- Student from family with adjusted gross income of $30,000 or less based on info provided in FAFSA.
- Must be eligible for Federal Pell Grant.
- Must be Texas resident.
10. Sam Houston State University | Huntsville, TX
Bearkat Promise: Covers any mandatory tuition and fees not covered by other grants and scholarships. This program is open to freshmen and transfer students.
- Adjusted Gross Income of $40,000 or less
- Eligible to receive Federal Pell Grant
- Texas resident
11. Angelo State University | San Angelo, TX
Blue & Gold Guarantee: The program is designed to help families afford college and is considered a "last-dollar" scholarship. It covers the full tuition of Pell Grant recipients after other federal and state grants and scholarships are factored in.
- Student from a family with income of $70,000 or less.
- Must submit the FAFSA and be Pell Grant eligible
- Must be a Texas resident.
12. Midwestern State University | Wichita Falls, TX
Mustang’s Guarantee Program: Eligible new students who have never earned a Bachelor’s degree can take advantage of this program. This program is a “last-dollar” scholarship and meets tuition costs not covered by other grants and scholarships.
- Student from family with adjusted gross income of $65,000 or less.
- Student must be Texas resident and Pell Grant eligible.
- Must earn at least 12 hours at the end of fall and spring semesters.
Tuition free colleges can help reduce your overall college costs and student debt. However, remember even if you do not qualify for one of these programs you could still qualify for other financial aid and scholarships, including merit aid.
My best advice is to check with the financial aid office at the colleges on your list. They can provide more up-to-date information on any free tuition or other financial aid options available to you.
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