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Tuesday, March 28, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 120

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Billboards to advertise grant

Publicity should help keep program for college students in place

By Juliana Coutinho
Daily Cougar Staff

The Texas Senate launched a billboard campaign last week to increase awareness of a grant program that provides money to beginning college students who have financial need and keep their grades up.

The $100 million Toward Excellence, Access & Success grant program pays tuition and fees for students who are residents of Texas, graduate from high school and complete college preparatory courses with a GPA of at least 2.0.

The average grant is $1,200 per semester, which can be used for up to 150 semester credit hours if a student meets the requirements.

The major goal of the billboard campaign is to inform prospective participants of the program so it can remain active for many years, said Jeremy Warren, a spokesman for state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston.

Ellis proposed the TEXAS grant program last year.

"Since the TEXAS grant program is a pilot project, we want to have as many people as possible on the first two years to show legislators that this will work for Texas," Warren said.

"The campaign uses donated billboards across the city," he said. "Hopefully, other legislators will do the same in their areas of jurisdiction."

According to the UH financial aid office, 402 students received TEXAS grants this academic year. About $1 million were allocated to the University.

Texas ranks 48th among states in terms of the percentage of high school students who earn college degrees, and Warren said cost is a major reason students don't finish college.

"The grant will help many, many students," Warren said. "If you work hard in high school and dedicate yourself, the grant will take care of the funding."

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board does not yet know how much money will be allocated to each university for the next academic year, but Warren said the total number of TEXAS grant recipients is expected to be between 10,000 and 11,000.

The grant program is Texas' answer to programs like Georgia's HOPE scholarships, which were the first of their kind when they began a few years ago.

Warren said Georgia spends $175 million a year on the grants, compared to Texas' $100 million in two years. Georgia's population is about one-third that of Texas.

"Texas is far behind," Warren said.

After the program's two-year trial period, the Texas Legislature will evaluate it to determine future funding levels.

For more information about the TEXAS grant program, contact UH's financial aid office at (713) 743- 9051, or visit the Coordinating Board's Web site, www.thecb.state.tx.us.
 

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