Austin Community College Offering Graduating High Schoolers Free Tuition

Starting this fall, students from 27 school districts can receive up to five years of free tuition to earn associate and bachelor's degrees, regardless of GPA or family income.
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Published on April 5, 2024
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  • The board of trustees approved the Austin Community College Free Tuition pilot program, which will last at least five years.
  • There's no GPA or family income requirement.
  • Students can also use their financial aid to cover other expenses.
  • Students are eligible for three years of free tuition to earn an associate degree or certifications and can get an additional two years of free tuition to earn a bachelor's degree.

The Austin Community College (ACC) District is giving all graduating high schoolers within the area free tuition to earn associate degrees, bachelor's degrees, and certifications.

ACC announced April 1 that its board of trustees approved a five-year free tuition pilot program starting in the fall of 2024. The ACC Free Tuition pilot program is available to all high school seniors and students who recently completed GED programs in ACC's service area, which spans 7,000 miles.

Students don't need a certain GPA or family income to qualify for the program. Also, the "first-dollar program" allows students to apply for financial aid and scholarships to cover other college expenses while ACC covers tuition. Students within the service area but not the taxing district will have to pay an out-of-district fee.

Students are eligible for three years of free tuition to earn an associate degree, certifications, and credentials. The college will extend eligibility to five years if a student wants to pursue a bachelor's degree at ACC.

According to the press release, ACC is still planning for what comes after the initial five-year program. The college is evaluating options to expand the free tuition program to more students.

"We have a responsibility to our students and the central Texas taxpayers. I want to thank the board for their time, attention, and care to this decision," Dr. Barbara P. Mink, ACC Board of Trustees chair, said in the press release.

"While we all want free tuition for our students, this is a complicated matter. I'm cautiously hopeful. Ongoing due diligence will help ensure this program remains sustainable and keep us focused on the full picture."

ACC found that students who started an application but didn't enroll in the college said tuition costs were the main reason they were postponing college. ACC cited the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which found a shift in central Texas' college rates — 57% of 2023 high school graduates didn't enroll in postsecondary education.

"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," ACC Chancellor Russell Lowery-Hart said in the press release. "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."

Austin, Texas, is also home to a new university offering its first 100 students a free education. The University of Austin is a conservative-created institution dedicated to freedom of speech and a "fearless pursuit of truth."

The institution will enroll its first students for fall 2024 and won't be accredited until the first class graduates. The university also does not accept federal financial aid, which may change later.

Colleges and universities nationwide are removing financial barriers to higher education for all students. Many remove tuition, while some remove all costs for qualifying students from lower-income families, undocumented students, Native American students, and more.

BestColleges found over 80 colleges and universities from elite schools — like Vanderbilt University, Duke University, and Dartmouth College — to public and smaller institutions that offer at least free tuition. Most students are required to fill out only the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or a state aid application and an application to the school.