Texas A&M University
Founded in 1876, Texas A&M University was the first public higher education institution in Texas.
Today, the school is home to more than 50,000 students, nicknamed “Aggies” (approximately 40,000 undergraduates and 10,000 graduates). It is located in College Station, which is about 90 miles northwest of Houston and a two- to three-hour long drive from Dallas or Austin.
The stellar academics at Texas A&M help to attract this large student body. According to U.S. News, Texas A&M ranks 68th overall in the list of Best Colleges. The university is considered an academic and athletic powerhouse in Texas, a reputation that is helping to ensure the ongoing success of its students.
The student body at Texas A&M appreciates the many offerings the university has to offer. Some highlights of the Texas A&M experience include:
- Extensive academic offerings: The university is composed of 16 colleges and schools; undergraduates can choose from 120 degree programs.
- Exceptional athletics: Nearly 650 Texas A&M student athletes compete in 20 varsity sports at the NCAA Division 1-A level.
- An exciting student life: There are at least 1,000 student organizations, and interested students always have the opportunity to start a new one as well.
- Well-funded programs: Of all US public universities, Texas A&M ranks 3rd due to its endowment of more than $5 billion.
- Diversity: Approximately 25 percent of freshmen are the first to go to college in their family, international students represent 123 countries and counting, and the study abroad program helps to place students in more than 90 countries each year.
Football at Texas A&M bears further discussion as it unifies the entire campus. The Aggies (name of the football team) were formerly part of the Big 12 Conference but on July 1, 2012 joined the Southeastern Conference. The switch was due in part to Texas A&M wanting to gain greater financial opportunity and national visibility. The decision proved a good one. Shortly after joining the Southeastern Conference, the Aggies placed 5th in the annual Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup standings, and Aggie Athletics earned its highest-ever Directors’ Cup final ranking in 2013.
Student supporters of the Aggies are known as “The Twelfth Man,” because football rules limit 11 players to the field, and fans are like an off-field team player. Students are so supportive of the Aggies, they have a tradition of standing during games, and they don’t cheer – they yell.
Costs of Attendance
As Texas A&M notes, on average college graduates earn $20,000 more than their peers who didn’t attend or complete coursework at an institution of higher learning. This consideration can help to justify the cost of attending college. It is also important to note that financial aid, for eligible students, can help to defray a healthy percentage of the costs. According to Texas A&M financial aid services, the following attendance expenses are taken into account when counselors create a financial aid package for an admitted student:
- Tuition and associated fees
- Housing and food
- Personal miscellaneous expenses
As Texas A&M is a public university, there is a difference in the cost of tuition for residents and non-residents. Based on 15 credits per semester, for the fall and spring 2015-16 semester, the sample estimated total cost of attendance is $24,024 (Texas resident residing on-campus), $18,636 (Texas resident residing at home), and $43,144 (non-resident residing on-campus). It is important to note that tuition at certain colleges within the university may have different tuition fees that will impact the overall costs.
Included in the above sample cost of attendance, Texas A&M allocates $10,338 to housing for on-campus students, and $4,950 for those who live at home. As the Department of Residence Life describes, on-campus housing includes both residence halls and apartment-style housing. Each year, over 7,500 live in the several different residence halls, which provide shared living situations and either private or common bathrooms. Some residence halls have a limited number of single rooms available.
Apartment-style housing may be more suitable for students in their junior or senior years who have already had the community living experience (which is one of the hallmarks of the college experience). This type of housing provides students with the option to rent a bedroom in an apartment (and have suitemates) or rent an entire apartment (and live on one’s own). All residence halls and apartment-style accommodations are fully furnished. Students only need bring their personal effects and study materials.
Financial aid packages at Texas A&M include food costs for on-campus dining facilities. The university offers over 20 dining hall locations that provide a wide diversity of offerings. These halls are open to all students, irrespective of where they reside, but the university requires freshmen living on-campus to select a designated Resident Dining Plan for the fall and spring (for example, there are four plans for the 2015-2016 academic year) that range in cost from $1,190 to $2,070 per semester, depending on the dining hall and the number of average meals per week.
Texas A&M provides a helpful apartment hunting tool – the Aggie Search – to students looking for off-campus housing opportunities, to find a roommate, or to list a place for rent. The university also provides an Off-Campus Survival Manual that provides students with helpful tips to be smart about renting. There are also various online sites that list properties for rent. For example, Apartment Finder mainly features newly constructed properties, which can be a great option because maintenance issues will likely be minimal.
The helpful consumer site Numbeo provides information on the cost of living in College Station, including rental expenses. In the city center, the average rental cost for a one-bedroom apartment is $825, whereas three-bedroom apartments fetch an average of $1,972.50. For a budget-conscious student, one possibility is to rent a three-bedroom apartment with other students, which based on these figures can bring the rental rate down to $658 per bedroom (a savings of $167 compared to a one-bedroom apartment, which for many will justify having to share a bathroom, kitchen, and living room).
Financial Aid Overview
Every student contemplating college who will need financial assistance will need to learn the basics of financial aid. In general, financial assistance comes from the following sources:
- The federal government
- The state government (where the school is located)
- Institutional awards (i.e., grants and scholarships from the school itself)
- Third-party scholarships (i.e., from private donors and organizations)
- Private banks (private student loan lenders)
Prospective students must take a crucial first step: completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application has a deadline, each year, and it’s critical not to miss it in order to be considered for the most financial assistance possible. When it comes to applying for aid, there may also be a state deadline and/or a school outline. It is the applying student’s responsibility to be up-to-date on all applicable deadlines. In addition, it is important to note that many schools may base scholarship aid on information reported in the FAFSA, even if there is a separate application for the scholarship. The best practice is always to complete the FAFSA, even if a student thinks they may not qualify for many of the available forms of aid.
Students who are not US citizens or eligible citizens are not permitted to receive federal aid; however, federal immigration limitations do not necessarily extend to the state. Students who do not have an eligible immigration status for federal financial aid purposes may still be eligible for state aid. As College for All Texans explains, students who are residents of Texas who not meet the criteria to apply for federal aid may be eligible to apply for state aid by completing the Texas Application for State Financial Aid (TASFA).
- Direct Subsidized Loans: The government pays the interest on this loan while the school is on a recognized deferment, such as when in school, during a grace period, or when in repayment but experiencing a financial hardship.
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans: The government does not usually pay any interest on the loan; it’s the student borrower’s obligation.
- Direct PLUS Loans: For undergraduate studies, the parent is the borrower.
The Federal Perkins Loan is available for students who have demonstrated exceptional financial need on the FAFSA. One of the perks of this loan is that the interest rate is fixed at 5 percent. Not all schools participate in this loan program, but Texas A&M does and will consider students for the Perkins Loan on an as-needed basis. The university will approve eligible students for a specific amount, but undergraduates are capped at borrowing $5,000 per year, with a total limit of $27,500 for undergraduate study.
Federal Work-Study provides students with the opportunity to earn money while enrolled in school. Eligible students will receive a work-study amount per semester. It is up to the student to find a work-study job, but it’s usually not too hard to do so. The student may earn, per semester, up to the amount of the award. It is important to note that these funds must be earned; they are not provided outright.
State Aid and Scholarships
In 1999, the Texas state legislature created the TEXAS Grant (which is an acronym for “Towards EXcellence, Access and Success”). For the 2012-13 fall and spring academic year, A&M students were capped at an award of $7,400 per year. Texas A&M financial aid officers will consider those incoming freshmen for this grant who demonstrate exceptional financial need on the FAFSA or TAFSA. Students are subject to renewal requirements to continue receiving this grant after the first year it is granted.
The Texas Public Education Grant (TPEG) was designed to create access to public colleges in universities in the state. The grant is awarded to eligible students based on information reported in the FAFSA or TAFSA. International students may be considered for the International Texas Public Education Grant (ITPEG).
The Texas B-On-Time Loan is state-funded and provides a no-interest loan to qualifying students. In some cases, if specified conditions are met, the entire loan amount may be forgiven as of the time of graduation. In this way, the loan can be converted to a grant. The loan’s fact sheet provides additional information.
There are numerous scholarship opportunities available at Texas A&M. Students are encouraged to review the various application criteria and apply, provided they meet at least the minimum requirements. As a public institution, Texas A&M participates in the Top 10% Scholarship. The scholarship was created by the 80th State Legislature to encourage graduates in the top 10 percent of their class in Texas high schools to enroll in public colleges and university in Texas.
Prospective students should always thoroughly research any and all third-party scholarships for which they may be eligible. The granting donor or institution will usually forward the award to the university rather than give it to the student. Students are encouraged to apply for scholarships throughout their course of study and not only at the outset.
Also known as alternative loans, Texas A&M has composed a list of private lenders that have a history of making loans to Aggies. As Texas A&M advises, borrowing a private student loan should be considered only after all other funding avenues have been exhausted. These loans have less favorable repayment terms and higher interest rates compared to federal loans. It is necessary to be a smart consumer when weighing the pros and cons of each student loan product from each private bank.
Whether you are interested in Texas A&M because you’re a Texan, or you’re a non-resident drawn in by the academics and athletics, the odds are great that you are going to have an outstanding time if you become an Aggie. The better prepared you are to pay for Texas A&M, the more you can focus on what’s really important – your educational journey to your ideal career.