ACC Board of Trustees continues to explore proposed College Affordability Plan

Group of Early College High School Students walking into class at San Gabriel Campus

After careful consideration, the Austin Community College District (ACC) Board of Trustees is requesting more time for due diligence to examine the sustainability and growth of a proposed College Affordability Plan. The plan includes an innovative, pilot program that would provide free tuition for the graduating high school class of 2024. The official proposal went to the board during its regular meeting on Monday, March 4. 

“This is an exciting and complicated conversation. I want to thank my fellow Trustees for their time, attention, and care to make sure we’re doing due diligence,” says Dr. Barbara P. Mink, ACC Board of Trustees Chair. “As a board, it’s our responsibility to ensure we’re being good stewards to our entire community. A program of this magnitude takes time. We are going to be thoughtful about every aspect to ensure any plan we launch is sustainable, scaleable, and centered on academic success, social equity, and economic development.”

Development of the program has been on an expedited timeline to date. The college first presented a preliminary proposal in January and answered initial follow-up questions during the board’s February work session. A formal proposal was presented to the board for the first time in March. 

Trustees are requesting more time to evaluate specifics of the proposal to ensure long-term sustainability and scalability — particularly regarding the free tuition pilot program.

“We’ve moved very quickly, and I want to thank the board for their guidance and thoughtful consideration to make sure we get it right. We all want to do what we can to alleviate the burden of paying for college for everyone. Our trustees are asking all the right questions to ensure we focus on the proposed program’s potential challenges, sustainability, and scalability,” says ACC Chancellor Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart. “Ultimately, we want a free tuition program to work for all ACC students. People are experiencing a life that’s not affordable, and they can’t find a way to climb out and up. It’s not about getting students in the door. It’s about eliminating barriers so that they not only come, they persist, they graduate, and they enter our local workforce with the skills and talents our community needs.”

The college first began evaluating the proposal after looking at regional data that indicate a significant shift in college-going rates in Central Texas. Currently, 57% of high school graduates didn’t enroll in postsecondary education after graduating in 2023. Potential ACC students, those who started an application but ultimately chose not to enroll, indicated that tuition costs were the overwhelming reason why they were postponing college. 

Highlights of the proposed pilot program, including eligibility details, are below:

  • All high school students or GED completers who graduate after July 1, 2023, and live in the ACC service area would be eligible for three years of free tuition. For example, an eligible student graduating from high school in May 2024 will receive free tuition from fall 2024 through summer 2027.
  • Students who complete the initial ACC Free Tuition program would be eligible for an additional two years to obtain a bachelor’s degree from the college — for a total of 5 years of free tuition at ACC.
  • Students within the service area but not in the taxing district would still be responsible for the out-of-district fee.
  • Eligible students would be encouraged to apply for additional financial aid and scholarships to support other college and life expenses, including child care, living expenses, food, and housing. 

Information about the proposal and the planning process is available online at The board will review updates and new details at its next work session and regular meeting on April 1, 2024, and is expected to take a vote at that time. If approved, the pilot program could launch as early as fall 2024. 

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