Affordability Mindset

Recommendations for Developing an Affordability Mindset

Accelerating Momentum, the report of the Affordable Learning Accelerator Task Force includes the recommendation that "the UT System and institutions should adopt an Affordability Mindset across the UT System."

Why is this important?

  • Understanding and meeting the financial needs of students is a shared responsibility by all members of the university community with roles and actions for students, faculty, staff, and institutional and System leadership.
  • Affordability for students takes place across a continuum determined by multiple factors, among them, tuition and fees; costs of textbooks and other course materials; required technology; food, housing, and transportation; family income; grants and financial aid; and loans and debt.
  • Tuition and fees represent 35-40% of the cost of attendance at UT System institutions.
  • Financial need is one of the top reasons cited for why students leave the university and do not complete their degrees.

Affordability is a priority focus area for the UT System Student Advisory Council, and it has served in a leadership role for the development of annual recommendations to the Chancellor. 

Steps to developing and adopting an affordability mindset on your campus or in your courses:

Recognize students’ financial realities 

In Texas, 13.6% of the population lives at or below the poverty line. The University of Texas System institutions serve a significant number of students who experience financial challenges while trying to complete their postsecondary degrees. These challenges go beyond the inability to pay tuition and fees and other educational costs and extend into basic needs. That is, there are many UT System students who are homeless, hungry, lack health insurance and access to medical care, lack transportation needed to go to schools and jobs. There are many students who cannot afford the technology—devices, service carriers and WiFi—necessary to being a college student. Moreover, these financial challenges often impact historically underrepresented and excluded students who face additional barriers to educational access.

Understand and educate students, faculty, staff and administrators about the cost of education and student loan debt 

Across UT System institutions an average of 53% of undergraduate students receive need-based scholarship and grant aid, and nationally, two-thirds of Black students and half of Latinx students rely on Pell Grants to help finance their education. In Texas, 48% of all undergraduate students take on an average student loan debt of $27,240, with the public university average slightly lower at $24,240. UT System students take on an average of $20,985 in loan debt to complete their undergraduate education.   

Remember that COVID-19 has made these realities worse 

Survey data indicates that 70% of 18-24 year-olds are worried about losing their jobs as a result of COVID-19 and 55% report actually losing a job, income and/or hours at work. While Strada indicates that, overall, 44% of students have reported struggling with emotional well-being during COVID-19, additional survey data from NASPA reports that for low-income students (50% of undergraduate and 41% of graduate students) have experienced a major depressive disorder, and 54% of undergraduate and 48% of graduate students report generalized anxiety disorder. In addition, the number of students receiving crisis support increased 218% from 2019 to 2020.  

Take action to address student financial challenges and alleviate educational costs 

The UT System and UT academic institutions are working collaboratively to mitigate the rising cost of higher education and alleviate students’ financial challenges. This includes providing more grant support to students, creating emergency aid programs to help students get through immediate financial emergencies, providing temporary emergency housing, food banks and clothing pantries on campus. Institutions are paying increased attention to making more affordable learning resources and course materials available to students, including Open Educational Resources.

Make open educational resources (OER) more widely available in classrooms, libraries and bookstores 

The UT System Affordable Learning Accelerator Task Force report makes the case for OER and includes recommendations by which to advance their availability and usage. Resources for institutions and faculty are available across the UT System, and institutions have developed OER materials, professional development, grant programs and other special projects to support the use of OERs on UT campuses. Learn more on the OER at UT Institutions page. Additional state resources are available through the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s OERTX repository and DIGITEX.  

OER Affordability Mindset Infographic 8-11-21