SAN ANTONIO – The Alamo Colleges District has taken on the goal of cutting tuition while increasing the graduation rate in Bexar County.
It costs about $1,500 to be a full-time student for one semester at any of the Alamo Colleges.
The Alamo Colleges District hopes to change that by paying for low-income students' tuition at their schools by 2020.
Kaitlyn Huizar, a high school junior who is home-schooled, is hoping she can benefit from the program. She said she knows just how expensive community college is since she is already taking dual-credit classes at San Antonio College.
“Right now, it's hard for my family. We aren't sure how we are going to pay for it all,” Huizar said.
She hopes that she will be able to qualify for the program when she graduates in two years.
“It's really relieving to know I can have a forever education,” Huizar said.
In fall 2020, Alamo Colleges will begin its Alamo Promise program, which will pay for low-income qualifying students tuition after financial aid has been disbursed.
“After they apply for financial aid, if they don't qualify for the full amount, Alamo Promise would actually give that last amount of scholarship,” said Adelina Silva, vice chancellor of Student Success of Alamo Colleges.
The Alamo Promise program will be funded through a combination of resources, which include public and state funding, local business partnerships and donations.
A select few low-income San Antonio high schools will have the first students able to qualify for the program in 2020. Those schools have not currently been picked by the program.
After the first year, the program will expand to all schools in San Antonio, then across Bexar County.
According to Alamo Colleges, the first year of the program is estimated to cost just under $600,000 and over a projected five years, officials estimate it will cost $12 million.
Silva said she hopes this program will increase the percentage of graduates with associate degrees, which is currently at 33 percent in the city.
“We will be better prepared to not only take the jobs that are available, but to also draw industry to the community,” Silva said.
Huizar said she hopes this program will encourage her generation to continue their education.
“They think it's easier to go right into the work force, but honestly, in today's economy, it's better to have a degree of some sorts,” she said.
Alamo Colleges District officials aren't the only ones with free tuition on their mind. Texas lawmakers have filed two bills similar to the program in the Legislature. One bill would make community college free for Texas students. The other would also make public universities free for Texas students from households that earn $100,000 or less per year.