Austin Community College District (ACC) is proposing to make college tuition free for all high school seniors in Central Texas.
ACC Chancellor Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart presented the proffer Jan. 8 but expects to present a formal plan to the Board of Trustees in February.
Funds for the pilot free tuition program are already available within the college’s annual budget, according to officials. State appropriations received through House Bill 8 would be used to help fund college programs and expenses, which will free up dollars to help cover the costs of tuition for students.
“Our proposal covers the cost of tuition so that financial aid and scholarship dollars can go further and help students pay for their living expenses,” said Lowery-Hart. “That is a game changer.”
Funds from the college’s proposed free tuition program would be the first dollars a student would receive to help cover the costs of college. Students would still be able to apply for Pell Grants, financial aid, and scholarships to get additional financial support to help cover other expenses like housing, childcare, and textbooks. The program would fund $85 per credit hour for up to 3 years at the college, $67 for resident tuition, the $15 general fee, the $2 “success fee,” and the $1 “sustainability fee.”
The program starts this fall, if approved, and would support all high school seniors in the ACC service area who graduate in 2024, later scaling up to offer free tuition for all students as the college expands partnerships to grow the program.
Lowery-Hart said the proposal represents a first conversation to making college something for everyone and making such a program a national model.
“This will be a really powerful project for ACC and our community,” said Lowery-Hart. “Students have told us the affordability of college and the subsequent debt they could incur is keeping them away.”