CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi welcomed prospective students and their families to campus Saturday for Island Day. Only this Island Day they were surprised by an announcement that could financially help them get through college.
President Dr. Kelly Miller announced that they would be raising the threshold of the Islander Guarantee Program, from $60,000 to $125,000, to allow more students to become eligible.
The university estimates this change will help 500 additional students.
The Islander Guarantee Program provides financial aid to students from Texas, who are Pell grant eligible. Miller said students with a family income of $125,000 or less will now be considered.
“Our goal for everyone here on this campus is to help our students be successful," Miller said. "And we know the financial piece of it is a part of that. They either have to work a lot and they’re not able to engage in everything fully on campus or some students just can’t come."
Among being a Texas native and Pell Grant eligible, students must also carry a 2.5 GPA, submit a FAFSA and complete 15 credit hours a semester. The program is for first time college students and the money can be applied to tuition and fees for eight consecutive semesters (fall and spring).
Elizabeth Rubio is a student already in the program and says she might not be at the university without it.
“I thought that I might have to get a part-time job maybe even a full-time job," Rubio said. "And it was just very stressful trying to think about how I was going to balance work and school. And I wouldn’t be able to do extracurriculars, or band, or anything like that.”
Rubio said a weight has been lifted off her shoulders with this.
"It's definitely been a relief, academically," she said. "It's definitely taken some weight off of the loans I have to take. So, that's definitely a relief and having less stress during my academics."
“What happens is the students then have an opportunity to be able to take a breath and to be able to say, 'OK I can use some of my other aid on my room and board expenses and different things,'" said Andy Benoit, vice president of enrollment management. "'I don’t have to worry about trying to finish with the tuition and fees.'"
Benoit said the increase is to address a gap they saw with some receiving Pell Grants, but still needing help.
Miller is hoping, as this program grows, it changes the mindset of families that college is a possibility.
“It helps particularly first-generation college students," said Miller. "55 percent of our students are first generation. And so, we’re helping change family dynamics by getting the first student through college who then becomes a role model for all the rest of the family”
Saturday's Island Day was the largest one the university has had in 6 years, Benoit said.