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Alamo Colleges Invests $10M To Waive Tuition, Outstanding Balances This Summer

A sign on the campus of St. Philip's College, one of the five community colleges in the Alamo Colleges District.
File Photo | Joey Palacios | Texas Public Radio
Students at St. Philip's College and the other four colleges in the Alamo Colleges District can earn up to nine credit hours free of charge this summer.

The Alamo Colleges District is waiving tuition for some students this summer to keep them on track towards graduation during the coronavirus pandemic.

Students who took classes in the spring can earn up to nine credit hours this summer free of charge as part of the community college system’s Keep Learning Plan. Part-time students can receive free tuition for up to six credit hours. Students need to have at least a 2.0 cumulative GPA to qualify.

Alamo Colleges Chancellor Mike Flores said Monday the summer tuition program will be applied before any other financial aid, allowing students to use existing grants, loans and scholarships for living expenses.

“It can go towards their rent, their mortgage, their car payment, food. It can go towards clothing for their kids, all of those things that are so critical to our students,” Flores said.

“We know that many of our students live on the margins. They’re really struggling to pay, especially right now in this COVID environment. It could be a one income earner family. Or a two that’s now a one income. It could be folks who are unemployed or underemployed as a result of COVID.”

Flores said the goal of the plan is to remove as many barriers as possible so students can stay in school even if they’re facing financial hardship.

In addition to free summer tuition, the Keep Learning Plan eliminates outstanding balances of up to $500 for the fall and spring semesters, allowing students to enroll in summer classes without having to come up with the money to pay what they owe their college. It also reduces the fee to set up a tuition payment plan from $25 to $1 and provides the state-mandated college-readiness test, the Texas Success Initiative, free of charge from May 1 until June 20.

Flores said the Alamo Colleges District is primarily paying for the $10 million plan through a hiring freeze.

“We are only hiring essential positions during the COVID environment,” Flores said, “And so we have chilled several of those positions — about 100 positions.”

He said the district is also reallocating savings in utility costs, catering and travel while students and employees are working and learning from home.

Flores said the strain on the economy brought on by the virus makes it all the more important for his students to earn degrees that make them eligible for more jobs.

“I want them to cross the finish line,” Flores said. “I really want to ensure… that they complete the spring semester, they continue to the summer, and that they can get that credential that's so important for them being part of the American middle class.”

The community college district had more than 65,000 students enrolled in classes this spring, and expects more than 15,000 to take advantage of the offer of free classes this summer.

Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter at @cmpcamille.

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