Question 1: Can I participate in a study abroad program and still qualify for the tuition rebate?
Answer: If the study-abroad courses all transfer back successfully to the Texas public college or university and each course fulfills a requirement in your degree program, then participation in a study abroad program should not have a negative effect on your eligibility for the tuition rebate. However, if the credit you earned during the study abroad program is not required to meet the minimum requirements of your degree program, that credit would still be required to be reported to the Texas college or university where you're earning your degree, and could disqualify you from eligibility for the tuition rebate. You should check in advance with your academic advisor and get approval for any coursework taken through any study abroad program, or transferred from another institution, in order to be certain the coursework will fulfill degree requirements.
Question 2: I was granted a credit that I didn't request for a course that isn't required for my degree plan. (For instance, if I was given credit for a course because of my SAT score.) Is that credit counted towards the hour maximum for eligibility?
Answer: If the Texas public institution grants a credit without you requesting it, and if the credit was not required for your degree, then those hours should not be counted towards the maximum when determining your eligibility for the rebate. In addition, the law has been changed so that the first nine hours of credit that have been gained exclusively through examination do not count as hours attempted.
Question 3: To satisfy the requirement for the rebate, "students must have attempted no more than three hours in excess of the minimum number of semester credit hours required to complete the degree under the catalog under which they were graduated."
Are credit hours granted for the following counted towards this credit hour maximum?
- Courses transferred from another college or university
- Tech-prep courses not used in degree plan
- Dual credit (credit for high school and college courses)
- College orientation courses (for which credit is granted) and/or developmental courses
- Developmental or remedial education
Answer: For the purpose of determining eligibility to receive a tuition rebate, transfer credit and any other college-level courses attempted at another college or university, regardless of whether the institution is a Texas public institution or not, are counted toward hours attempted in the same manner that hours attempted at a Texas public college or university would be counted. Tech-prep courses, if not used to fulfill requirements in degree plan, do not count if they are never treated as college hours. For graduates prior to August 2011, dual credit courses do count - they are college hours. For graduates in August 2011 and later only, dual credit courses do NOT count, because a change in the law that became effective on May 27, 2011 specifies that credit earned prior to high school graduation (except for credit earned exclusively by examination) does not count for the purposes of establishing eligibility to receive the tuition rebate. College orientation courses count toward the total hours attempted if college-level credit was granted. Developmental or remedial education is not college level and students do not receive college-level credit for completion of developmental courses and interventions. Developmental or remedial courses and interventions hours do NOT count toward hours attempted.
Question 4: If I have used financial aid (gift aid especially), can I still qualify for the tuition rebate?
Answer: Yes. These are student resources. The only students who would be categorically unable to receive the rebate would be those who had been exempted from the payment of tuition for the full period of undergraduate studies. The maximum amount of the tuition rebate, $1000, would be paid to an eligible student who has actually paid at least $1000 of tuition above any financial aid (grants/gift aid) received.
Question 5: Why do dropped courses count against me?
Answer: A student who is enrolled in a course at the Census Date takes up a slot that can't be used by another student. But more important from a financial perspective, the state funds the college or university based on enrollment numbers at the Census Date. If a student drops a course after that Census Date, their enrollment still costs the state money, regardless of whether the student completes the work and earns the hours or not. This can make universities less efficient, and the state still pays for any courses that the student fails to complete.
Question 6: I'm majoring in English, but also taking educator preparation courses as part of my degree, so that I will be able to be licensed to teach in a Texas public school. Does that mean I can't qualify for the rebate?
Answer: Not necessarily. You would qualify for the rebate if you had attempted no more than 3 hours beyond the minimum number of hours needed to complete both the English major and the initial educator preparation program that were part of your degree. Your institution would determine what that minimum number of hours is.
Question 7: I'm double majoring in chemistry and physics. How is my credit hour limit calculated?
Answer: The credit hours for the degree requiring the lowest number of hours would be the base requirement, and add to that number any degree requirements that are additional to the second major, if second major requirements are used in place of any free electives allowed for the first degree. Thus, you would have to complete your degree within three hours of the minimum number of hours required to complete a double major in chemistry and physics. This number would be less than the sum of the hours required for each degree individually, since there is bound to be some overlap in courses (in the general education core curriculum, for example, as well as free electives). Your institution would determine what that minimum number of hours is.
Question 8: I heard that the rules were going to be changed to allow students to do some hours at non-public institutions. Was that change ever made?
Answer: Yes. The statute places no limitation on where the student earns the credit. In fact, the law clearly states that transfer courses must be counted as credit hours attempted to determine eligibility for the tuition rebate, and requires students to present transcripts showing ALL college-level work attempted, regardless of where the courses were taken. Coordinating Board rules originally required students to have completed all their courses at Texas public institutions of higher education, but that rule was stricter than the requirements of the law, so it has been dropped.
Question 9: I qualified for the rebate, but my rebate was applied to my student loans. I don't think this is fair. Why didn't I get the money?
Answer: The Legislature chose to require that tuition rebate money first goes to pay off student loans owed to the State of Texas. This provision was probably made for reasons of fiscal prudence, and to ensure that students carry as little debt as possible once they have graduated.
Question 10: Is there a special fund set aside by the Legislature to reimburse institutions for the rebates?
Answer: No. Universities must pay the refunds directly out of locally available funds. Although the statute provided the means for the Legislature to reimburse institutions for the amount they pay out in rebates, that provision has not been funded so far.
Question 11: I heard there was a bill to allow students graduating with associate's degrees at community colleges to qualify for the rebate. Did this bill pass?
Answer: No. House Bill 531 did not pass during the 2003 session. At this time, only students graduating with bachelor's degrees from public universities can qualify to receive the tuition rebate.
Question 12: I'm working on my bachelor's degree in public health at a public health-related institution. Could I qualify for the rebate?
Answer: No. The tuition rebate is limited in the statute to students graduating with bachelor's degrees from public universities.
Question 13: Is it true that there is a new time limit as well as a credit hour limit that must be satisfied to get the rebate?
Answer: Yes, the 79th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature (2005) changed the tuition rebate program requirements. Students admitted for the first time in fall 2005 or later must meet the same credit hour limitations that have always been required, and must also graduate in a timely manner in order to earn the tuition rebate. That is, a student who wants to qualify to receive the rebate must graduate within four calendar years for a four-year degree or within five calendar years for a five-year degree. Currently the Board has identified only architecture and engineering as five-year degree programs. Although there are certain exceptions for hardship situations, most part-time students will no longer be eligible to receive the tuition rebate.
If you enrolled in higher education for the first time between fall 1997 and fall 2005, you are not affected by the time limitation. You must only meet the timely graduation requirement if you first enrolled in fall 2005 or later.
Question 14: I am enrolled in a program that allows me to go five years, but at the end of that time I will receive my bachelor's degree and my master's degree at the same moment - I'll receive a BBA and an MBA in Accounting. I like this program, because I can earn a master's degree in only one more year, but could I still receive the tuition rebate?
Answer: The statute requires a student to have attempted no more than 3 semester credit hours beyond the minimum requirement for their bachelor's degree program, but it does not address students in programs such as yours. Each university should decide whether to determine the point at which you would be eligible to receive a bachelor's degree, and evaluate your request as of that time. If your university chooses to do this, you would not be able to receive the rebate until you have received your bachelor's degree.