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      College tuition increases put strain on Valley students, families

      Proposition 2 on this year's democratic primary ballot is calling on the Texas Legislature to make a college education more affordable.

      Roughly 75 percent of students attending the University of Texas Pan American receive some sort of financial aid.

      If it weren't for the government student loans, UTPA students like Jorge Sanchez would not be able to afford it.

      "I'm very happy with that because I can get a degree in business and I haven't paid a single dollar, Sanchez said.

      But after graduation, the vast majority of students will be working to pay off the debt they accrued while in school.

      "We are going to have to work really hard, and get a stable job, and it will take years," UTPA student Luz Madrezo said.

      That's why Proposition 2 is calling on the Texas Legislature to bring down tuition by increasing funding.

      Eight percent more students have applied for financial aid this year, but UTPA Financial Aid Associate Director of Outreach and Communications Jael Garcia says that's not a bad thing.

      "Often one of the misconceptions of financial aid is that you have students rule themselves out, Garcia said. They think ~I'm not going to qualify for financial aid. TM So an increase is always a good thing."

      Despite this year's 2.4 percent increase for in-state tuition, UTPA scores higher than many other Texas schools in affordability.

      "Whether college is affordable or not it probably depends on what college or university you ask, Garcia said.

      While every year universities raise tuition, Garcia said that's not the issue.

      "I think the concern comes from the fact that sometimes the federal and state programs do not increase at the same rate, Garcia said.

      That forces students to take out more loans.

      "If a subsidized loan is not enough then you are going to have to get an unsubsidized loan and you will have a lot of interest so it TMs getting really expensive as tuition increases" Madrezo said.

      "I did this past year have to get a loan out which wasn't really something I wanted to do but I needed it," UTPA student Sasha Pena said.

      About 60 percent of UTPA students receive Pell grants to pay for at least part of their education expenses.