Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp on Wednesday announced a new initiative that will help Texas A&M System students facing significant hardships stay in school and graduate on time without incurring additional debt.

Chancellor Sharp made the announcement as part of his testimony before the Joint Interim Committee on Higher Education Formula Funding.

According to the Press Release, through their work with the Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas, which is focused on the state’s recovery efforts after Hurricane Harvey, Texas A&M System leaders have identified an important gap in financial aid programs. Students who come from families with income that is too high to allow them to qualify for federal Pell Grants, but too modest to provide a cushion in case of unexpected expenses like those incurred in the wake of Harvey, are particularly vulnerable to having their progress toward a college degree derailed.

“We do not want our hard-working students to be forced to take out extra loans or lose valuable time toward their degree because of unanticipated issues with things like medical expenses, job loss, or natural disasters,” Sharp said. “One of the core functions of our universities is to get students to graduation with a degree that allows them to be highly productive members of society, and our new Regents’ Grant initiative will eliminate some of the pitfalls that have threatened the progress of too many of our bright students.”

Pending approval from The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents, the Texas A&M System’s new Regents’ Grants will provide these students with an additional source of one-time grant funding that can help them overcome financial hardships. To be eligible, students must meet certain criteria, including a student/family adjusted gross income between $60,000 and $100,000 per year. The initiative will be funded with $3 million per year from the Available University Fund for the next 10 years.

Chancellor Sharp told the committee members that this initiative will prevent students facing financial challenges from adding to their debt by taking out additional loans and that he anticipates that it will lead to an increase in graduation and retention rates at System institutions.