In an effort to improve degree completion and student retention rates, The Alamo Colleges Board of Trustees have voted to forgive a maximum of $1.8 million in student debt to help 9,000 former students in Bexar County re-enroll and continue pursuing degrees or credentials.
As part of the unanimous decision to forgive the student debt, the Fresh Start Program was established. The program will apply to former students who owe $500 or less from before fall 2017 and have not earned certificates or graduated.
Before the vote, the debt would have prevented the students from re-enrolling at Alamo Colleges until it was paid off. Now, the debt will be forgiven after the student completes six credit hours with a C or above. That would cost a student from Bexar County $594.
In addition, students will also need to attend a financial literacy workshop and create an academic plan with an adviser, according to San Antonio Express-News.
According to the district, there are 9,048 former students who are eligible for the Fresh Start Program. The students owe a combined total of $1,832,943, however the Alamo Colleges already wrote it off as bad debt, so amnesty will not affect the district’s budget.
Getting rid of that barrier is expected to help students re-enroll, said Alamo Colleges chancellor Mike Flores.
Approximately 277,000 Bexar County residents have completed some college credits but have not attained a degree or credential, the Alamo College District estimated.
“We’re looking at different ways that we can really be strategic in re-engaging those 277,000 adults and other members of our community to provide them with educational access,” Flores said.
The goal of the program is to help students who possible left college due to financial constraints or unexpected life events that would prevent them from finishing a certificate or degree.
“We really want to encourage those students to come back and complete their credential,” Vice chancellor for finance and administration Diane Snyder said.
The former students can also consult Student Advocacy Services for assistance with financial struggles like transportation and child care.
“We can connect these students to things that may have impacted them on why they left us before, because life happens,” Snyder said.