Pilot to launch this fall for the class of 2024 and continue each subsequent year for 5 years

The Austin Community College District (ACC) Board of Trustees approved a bold proposal to offer FREE tuition for high school graduates and GED® completers — starting with the class of 2024. After months of discussion, Trustees approved the ACC Free Tuition pilot program — also known as the College Affordability Plan —  with 8 voting for and 1 abstaining. The vote occurred during the board’s regular meeting on Monday, April 1. 

“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. As a board, we believe deeply in making college a reality for everyone in Central Texas. It’s why we’ve voted every year — for the past 11 years — to keep ACC’s tuition rates steady,” says Dr. Barbara P. Mink, ACC Board of Trustees Chair. “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. We are adamant about not only supporting access to higher education through programs like ACC Free Tuition, and also doing what we can to help meet the basic needs of students while they’re here.”

With the board’s approval now in place, ACC will pilot the new program for a period of 5 years, starting in fall 2024, providing FREE tuition to the class of 2024. It will continue for all future classes in subsequent years for the next 5 years. The pilot program would offer free tuition and general fees for high school seniors, including public, private, charter, and homeschoolers and GED completers, in the ACC service area. 

“I applaud the work of our board and their call for due diligence. They asked the important questions to ensure we focus on the program’s potential challenges, sustainability, and scalability,” says ACC Chancellor Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart. “This board is deeply committed to the work it takes to close equity gaps and improve the lives of our students. Decisions like these demonstrate the commitment to every student and ACC and Central Texas community.”

Why Central Texas Needs A Free Tuition Program

Data indicate a significant shift in college-going rates in Central Texas. According to The College Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), 57% of high school graduates in 2023 didn’t enroll in postsecondary education after graduating. 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. 

“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,” says Lowery-Hart. “Every student’s success is something we can all celebrate. Central Texas is in unprecedented economic and population growth. Our region faces talent gaps, and an educated workforce is crucial to the future success.”

Free Tuition for Class of 2024 Pilot Program At-A-Glance

When drafting the proposal, ACC looked into 25 similar programs nationwide and developed a program that would be simple and easy to navigate with no income or GPA requirements. Highlights of ACC’s pilot launch, including eligibility details, are below:

  • The five-year pilot program will begin with the class of 2024 and continue for the next five years. 
  • All high school students or GED® completers who graduate after July 1, 2023, and live in the ACC service area are eligible.
  • There are no GPA requirements or income restrictions. 
  • Those who enroll will sign an acknowledgment letter and may enroll in any college academic or workforce credit program.
  • Eligible students will have three years, starting from the first fall semester after they graduate high school, to complete their associate degree and obtain any desired academic or workforce credentials and/or certification. For example, an eligible student graduating from high school in May 2024 will receive free tuition from fall 2024 through summer 2027.
  • The pilot program starts with the class of 2024 and will continue for all future classes in subsequent years for the next five years. 
  • Students who complete the initial ACC Free Tuition program are eligible for an additional two years to obtain a bachelor’s degree from the college — for a total of five years of free tuition at ACC.
  • Students are eligible and encouraged to apply for additional financial aid and scholarships.
  • As a first-dollar program, students can still apply for financial aid and scholarships to support other college and life expenses; including child care, living expenses, food, and housing. 
  • Students within the service area but not in the taxing district will still be responsible for the out-of-district fee.

Ongoing planning is underway to examine future phases of the program that would allow the college to expand ACC Free Tuition to more student populations. The college will present regular evaluations through the duration of the five-year pilot to examine metrics, including, but not limited to, enrollment rates, persistence rates, and completions. 

For more information about ACC Free Tuition, visit austincc.edu/freetuition

More Tuition Savings for Students

The vote comes the same day ACC’s Board of Trustees approved to maintain tuition and fees for the 11th year in a row. The 2024-25 tuition rates remain $67 per credit hour for in-district students at ACC — with the regular general fees, it comes to $85 per credit hour. The out-of-district fee will remain the same at $201 per credit hour. Read more here.

Students can apply now for fall classes. Registration for fall opens to everyone on Friday, May 17. For more information, visit austincc.edu/register.