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Education

Alamo Colleges Adopt Plan To Forgive Debt If Students Return

Students climb the stairs of the Chance Academic Center on the San Antonio College campus in June, 2018.
File Photo |Camille Phillips | Texas Public Radio
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Starting this fall, owing the Alamo Colleges a small amount of money will no longer prevent former students from re-enrolling to complete their degree.The board of the Alamo Colleges District voted Tuesday to waive older unpaid balances of $500 or less as part of a new program called Fresh Start. Debt from fall 2017 or earlier will qualify.

Vice Chancellor Diana Snyder said the goal of the program is to help reduce the number of local residents who started college but don’t have a degree.

“We know about 9,000 of them are some that owe some small balances to Alamo Colleges, so this Fresh Start is to allow us to provide an ability for those students to come back, re-enroll,” Snyder said.

Usually, students need to pay the college what they owe in order to register for new classes. But under this new plan, students with less than $500 on their balance will be allowed to enroll.

Once they complete six credit hours with a C or higher, they’ll be eligible to have that balance cleared.

When the program was introduced at a committee meeting Feb. 19, Snyder told trustees that students would be eligible for financial aid while they complete the six credit hours.

Students in the Fresh Start program will also be required attend a financial literacy workshop, develop a degree completion plan with an advisor and connect with student advocacy services like counseling and the found pantry.

Snyder said that will help ensure the students are successful when they return “because life happens, other challenges, and we now have a lot of services that we didn’t have before.”

“I think this is a very timely implementation, and it’s at no cost to the district,” said trustee Roberto Zárate. “This program goes a long way to meeting that concern in terms of what happens to those people who’ve left us.”

District officials said the Alamo Colleges have already written off the $1.8 million from unpaid balances prior to 2018 as bad debt, so the program comes at no further cost to the district.

According to the U.S. Census, about 30 percent of adults in San Antonio have some college credit but no degree or credential.

Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@TPR.org and on Twitter at @cmpcamille.