ACC takes the next step toward free tuition for the Class of 2024

Austin Community College District (ACC) is evaluating expanding eligibility for the pilot launch of its proposed FREE tuition program. The college presented updates during a work session on Monday, February 12, with the Board of Trustees.

“This just makes college affordable. It also opens us up to families that might not have considered us otherwise. That is a game changer. That is a life changer,” says ACC Chancellor Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart. “Our community, like our country, is in a student debt crisis. That means our students are mortgaging their future and can’t afford to buy a house. We want to change that. We aim to be the first college in the country to offer free tuition for everyone in our district.”

Since the first announcement in January, the proposal has expanded to include all high school seniors in the ACC service area. On top of seniors who graduate from a local independent school district, it now also includes homeschool graduates, charter school graduates, and GED completers in the service area. Additionally, in response to employee feedback, the board requested college workgroups look at adding dependents of ACC employees to the pilot program. It’s all part of the college’s plan to make college more affordable and accessible for everyone.

The program would include Credit and Continuing Education (CE) courses. However, any CE courses must lead to a credential of value, as identified in Texas House Bill 8.

“This college is deeply committed to equity and ensuring everyone succeeds here. We wanted to pursue a first-dollar program because it helps your most vulnerable students. Covering tuition for our students, other funding like scholarships and Pell grants can help them meet their basic needs. We don’t ever want a student to have to choose between paying for college or their rent,” says Dr. Lowery-Hart. 

The college’s ultimate goal is to expand the program to provide free tuition for everyone.  

Under the leadership of Dr. Lowery-Hart, the college launched multiple workgroups districtwide since proposing the program during the January ACC Board of Trustees work session. The groups are looking at seven specific areas of focus to ensure robust and strategic planning for the program.

Based on the number of 2023 graduates from area high schools and enrollment projections from the college, the pilot program is expected to cost the college approximately $7 million. 

The college expects the Board of Trustees to take a formal vote on the pilot program in March.

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