Alamo Promise pays college tuition for qualifying seniors

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By Vanessa Montano Rodriguez

In the 2016 election, Democratic candidates proposed free tuition to universities and community colleges, which motivated many students to vote.

With similar intentions, Alamo Promise was founded. This program helps graduating seniors from qualifying high schools with free tuition, said Ashley Blanco, certified enrollment coach in outreach & recruitment.

Chancellor Mike Flores established the program with Mayor Ron Nirenberg October 2019, and the first class of students enrolled for the fall 2020 semester.

Blanco has been the head of the program since the program was created. 

“My director assigned me to take the lead with this initiative, and I’ve been managing it ever since,” Blanco said. 

The Ranger reported Oct. 9, 2019, Alamo Promise will provide funding that makes up the difference between a student’s financial aid package and total tuition and fees at one of the Alamo Colleges for two years.

The program would cover all the costs to enroll in classes, the only thing the student has to worry about is to be ready to study, Blanco said. However, this program only pays for tuition and mandatory fees. This does not include the expenses of books or instructional materials. 

According to the district website, to enter the program, a student must have:

  • Completed a Save Your Seat Form to participate in the program. 
  • Submitted the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or Texas Application for State Financial Aid, listing at least one college of the Alamo Colleges District. 
  • Applied for admission to one of the district’s colleges through Apply Texas. 
  • Completed registration at one of the district’s colleges. 

Then a student must maintain a 2.0 GPA and complete at least 18 credit hours per academic year. 

Any student who is graduating high school with a minimum GPA of 80 (2.7) from the following high schools is eligible: 

Burbank, East Central, Edison, Fox Technical, Harlandale, Highlands, Holmes, Houston, Jay, Jefferson, Kennedy, Judson, Lanier, Legacy of Educational Excellence McCollum, Memorial, Roosevelt, Somerset, South San, Southside, Southwest, Wagner, Brackenridge and San Antonio independent school district’s Young Women’s Leadership. 

Programs like Alamo Promise are growing fast, 242 programs in 44 states. Nineteen states are working to recruit more students, a district flyer at reported.

More than 5,500 students have completed their eligibility requirements to become Alamo Promise scholars. This college has 881 students registered for fall 2020, Blanco said.

Alamo Promise eligibility requires satisfactory academic progress for financial aid eligibility, so dropping classes is probably not the best option, Blanco said. If a student were to drop all their courses, they would lose access to the program and potentially mess up their financial aid standing for the next semester. 

“To date, more than 2,500 Promise students are enrolled across the Alamo Colleges and are receiving some type of aid or scholarship to cover their tuition,” Blanco said. 

Alamo Colleges officials estimated the program will need $122.5 million to operate during its first five years. More than $88 million would be covered by federal financial aid, the chancellor said. 

Blanco said this program works with the financial help of the community college, but it is not the only way they receive help. 

Alamo Promise has secured more than $2.2 million in funding from private donors, including $500,000 from Toyota, $250,000 from JP Morgan Chase, and $100,000 each from the Frost Bank Charitable Foundation and Wells Fargo. The city of San Antonio and Bexar County have committed about $304,000 in total for the first year, with a commitment from the city to find sources for $1.2 million in the fiscal year 2021, Flores said.

The businesses decided to help the project because this is a great opportunity to help students accomplish higher education that would give them more chances to find better jobs. 

“Many students feel bad when they know about the program because they do have trouble paying tuition and knowing about this program would be great for them,” Blanco said.

“Luckily, we have other options, for example, applying for many scholarships like financial aid (Free Application for Federal Student aid) is a great opportunity to help students,” Blanco said.

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