The Charles Butt Foundation awarded Alamo Colleges $1.5 million Thursday to fund Alamo Promise, a new last-dollar scholarship program that will cover tuition for students graduating from certain Bexar County high schools.
The program launched last year with the first group of students set to enroll in Alamo Colleges in fall 2020. Alamo Promise is open to students from 25 public high schools located in areas with low college attainment rates. The program will extend to an additional 20 schools next fall. As of early December, roughly 6,000 students had reserved a seat in the program.
Chancellor Mike Flores estimated about one-third of eligible students will ultimately enroll at Alamo Colleges. He told Alamo Colleges trustees at a Tuesday night meeting that the community college system will need to raise $18 million in private philanthropy to cover the next 10 years of Alamo Promise. So far, the Alamo Colleges District has raised close to $4.5 million of this amount, including the donation from the Charles Butt Foundation.
Private donations also include $500,000 from philanthropist Harvey Najim and $250,000 from JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Flores previously estimated the first five years of the program will cost $122 million total. The majority of this – $88 million – will be covered by federal financial aid. Alamo Colleges committed to cover $11 million of the remaining cost and asked both the City and County to do the same.
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At a San Antonio Chamber of Commerce luncheon focused on Alamo Promise Thursday, Flores touted a new economic impact report written by Belinda Román, a former Palo Alto College professor and current St. Mary’s University assistant professor of economics. The report projects the economic impact of Alamo Promise could be up to $1.7 billion over the next five years, including an additional $62 million in sales and property tax revenue.
Internal Alamo Colleges data indicates the number of students attending college is declining in San Antonio – while 51 percent of students in 2010 enrolled in higher education, 45.1 percent of May 2016 high school graduates did the same.
The percentage of local adults age 25 and older with an associate degree or higher has increased from 30.7 percent in 2010 to 33.3 percent in 2016 but still lags behind both state and national averages. The goal of Alamo Promise is to boost the college-going rate in Bexar County from 49 percent to 70 percent within five years, Flores told the audience Thursday afternoon.