The Alamo Colleges George E. Killen Community Education & Service Center is located at 201 W. Sheridan St.
Alamo Colleges will be eliminating debt for some students as part of the "Fresh Start" program. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Alamo Colleges will forgive debt for former students with outstanding balances of $500 or less incurred before Fall 2017. These balances previously precluded students from signing up for classes.

The goal of the program, called Fresh Start, is to allow 9,000 ex-students with outstanding balances and holds on their accounts to re-enroll. It is part of a strategy to address the close to 300,000 San Antonio residents who have some college but no degree, said Diane Snyder, the vice chancellor for finance and administration.

“We know about 9,000 of them are some that owe small balances to Alamo Colleges …  and it provides an ability for those students to come back and re-enroll as they meet those requirements that we covered,” Snyder said.

The community college district already has written off the owed balances, which amount to about $1.8 million, as bad debt, so the program would have no impact on its operating budget.

To qualify for the program, students would have to attend a financial literacy workshop, connect with Student Advocacy Services, develop an academic plan with an advisor, register at the current tuition rate, and complete six credit hours with an average grade of a C or higher.

Trustees, who voted unanimously to approve the program Tuesday night, described Fresh Start as a great idea that had the potential to re-engage many students who couldn’t enroll because of financial circumstances.

Chancellor Mike Flores told the Rivard Report that Alamo Colleges is just piloting the program for now and will wait to see how to proceed in the future.

“As we look at different segments of our population, we want to seek to engage them or re-engage them and that is what Fresh Start is all about,” Flores said. “Outreach is particularly critical to reconnect with them.”

Students will be able to use the program for the upcoming fall semester, and Alamo Colleges will begin outreach to qualifying students based on their last known contact information.

Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.