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ACC unveils free tuition program

Nix, seniors say new program makes a good post-secondary option even more attractive, affordable
Dave Winter
ACC recruiting specialist Nhi Tien speaks with students about the advantages of Austin Community College during the College Signing Day celebration in the main hallway during lunch on Friday.

College and Career Counselor Camille Nix recently notified McCallum students of Austin Community College’s (ACC) plan for a significant move toward making higher education more accessible. ACC has unveiled a new initiative towards removing financial barriers for students within its service area. The ACC Board of Trustees has recently approved the ACC Free Tuition Program, designed to support students in achieving their educational goals without tuition fees.

I think this program is a huge deal. It provides free education for kids post-high school, and a lot of opportunity for kids that might not have considered it before.

— college and career counselor Camille Nix

“I think this program is a huge deal,” Nix said. “It provides free education for kids post-high school, and a lot of opportunity for kids that might not have considered it before. College is expensive, and there are kids that decide not to do it because they can’t afford it or don’t want to take on the debt, so this allows more students to have access to higher education.”

McCallum student Nathan Barnes, who is attending ACC’s welding program is one student who is opting to take advantage of the new program.

“I wasn’t going to go to ACC at first, I was going to go to UTI,” Barnes said, “ but Ms. Nix said it was free, and free is better than being in debt.”

Five-year pilot starts with Class of 2024

This five-year pilot program aims to expand to education accessibility. High school students or GED completers who graduate after July 1, 2023, and live in the ACC service area are eligible for the program, which extends eligibility without regard to GPA or income.

Comprehensive support for a brighter future 

According to senior Owen Johns, McCallum student Owen Johns, who is going to ACC for civil engineering, the school’s commitment to students goes beyond just offering free tuition.

“I decided to go to ACC because the professors there really care about their students, compared to four-year universities like UT, which are research-based, where you’re not going to get much help while learning. ACC tries to help you pass your classes, transfer and succeed.” 

Upon enrolling, students choose from any college academic or workforce credit program and then signing an acknowledgment letter to seal their commitment. With a three-year window from the first fall semester post-graduation to complete their associate degree, students are also encouraged to obtain an academic or workforce credentials and/or certification; moreover, the initiative allows students who complete their associate degree to receive an additional two years of free tuition, totaling up to five years of free education at ACC, if the student decides to pursue a bachelor’s degree. 

ACC tries to help you pass your classes, transfer and succeed.

— senior Owen Johns

Additional financial aid opportunities

The program’s design as a first-dollar program means that eligible students can apply for further financial aid and scholarships. This financial support aims to cover other essential living expenses, including child care, food and housing, ensuring students can focus on their studies without financial strain.

Johns said the tuition incentive made ACC an even more attractive college option.

Honestly, the free tuition program excited me even more because now I can invest a lot more in my studies and living at ACC, compared to when I would have had to worry about both my tuition and the cost of living fees,” Johns said.

Senior Chris Ferina puts his name and his future college on the signing day wall in the main hallway during lunch on Friday. Ferina is one of many Mac seniors who is taking advantage of ACC’s new free tuition pilot program. Photo by Dave Winter.

A step towards greater accessibility 

ACC maintains that ACC Free Tuition Program is not just an investment in the futures of individual students; it’s a step towards educational equity in the region. While students living outside the taxing district will still be responsible for the out-of-district fee, the program’s comprehensive approach to financial aid and scholarships offers a powerful support system. 

Nix has already seen the impact of the program with the students she advises.

“I’ve seen two things happening since the free tuition program came out,” she said. “One, some kids going to four-year schools are transitioning to ACC instead for at least the first year to save money. And then two, I’m seeing some kids saying they were going to go straight to work after high school because of the money, that have come back and decided to do applications with me, which is exciting.”

Looking ahead

While summer 2024 classes are not covered, the program officially kicks off in the fall.  If you’re a senior at McCallum and would like more information about the program, please contact Ms. Nix

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