Free community college program will require city money

Source of $9.7 million from City of San Antonio not yet decided

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SAN ANTONIO – With the goal of sending local students to the five Alamo College District campuses for free, "AlamoPROMISE" is a plan to allow for dreams.

"A credential, more than anything else, is going to ensure not only prosperity for an individual or their family but also long-term economic development for our community," said Alamo Colleges District Chancellor Mike Flores.

RELATED: Alamo Colleges offers free tuition to local high school students

Beginning in 2020, students from 25 local high schools can have their tuition covered at five Alamo College District campuses. An additional 20 high schools will be added to the eligibility pool for the second year. 

The idea is to cover what's left of tuition and fees after financial aid kicks in for a student for up to three years. It's expected to cost about $122.5 million over the first five years, which will serve 36,182 students.

"About half of those — 19,000 students — would not have realized a higher education were it not for AlamoPROMISE," Flores said.

Most of that cost is expected to come from the financial aid in the form of federal Pell grants, $88.6 million, and Alamo Colleges's Texas Public Education Grants (TPEG), $7 million. The $26.9 million for the "last dollar" portion would come from the Alamo Colleges Foundation, the city of San Antonio and Bexar County.

The city and county's projected totals are identical, starting at $154,218 in the first fiscal year, and increasing to $3.8 million for FY 2024. In total, they would each contribute $11.2 million through the five years.

The city has already allocated the first year's funds, and $1.4 million for the second year is available in budget reserves, ready to be released with city council approval. The city hasn't yet decided on a way to fund the following three years' portion of $9.7 million. 

City staff members have identified some possible sources, though, and Mayor Ron Nirenberg said funding the initiative should be a priority.

"It does not give me pause at all to suggest that I'm comfortable not only with the investment we've made this year — the allocation we've made next year — but a commitment from this city organization that we're going to fund AlamoPROMISE for as long as we need a PROMISE program," Nirenberg said after a presentation to the city council Wednesday.

About the Author:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.