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How a scholarship program is helping Alamo Colleges students finish an associate's degree, debt-free

How to get an associate's degree from Alamo Colleges without taking on loans.

SAN ANTONIO — This week, Alamo Colleges started reserving spots for its Alamo Promise program, which helps students get an associate's degree without taking on debt.

Working part-time at SeaWorld means Margot Smith can focus more of her attention on her classes at Northwest Vista College.

“I’ve always known community college is an option, but I wanted to go to a four-year university like all my friends," Margot said. "But now, I love being at community college. Northwest Vista is honestly a great school for me.”

Her parent’s income meant that a large amount of her tuition was not going to be covered by financial aid, but while she was finishing up senior year at John Jay High School, she was able to be one of the first students to apply for the Alamo Promise program.

“I always knew I was going to have to pay for my own college,” Margot said. “But I didn’t realize how much that was going to be until I got there.”

Nearly 3,000 students signed up for the program in its first year.

 “We're really pleased with the impact that we've made in this first year,” said Alamo Colleges District Chancellor Mike Flores.

The program provides "last dollar" scholarships, which, when combined with financial aid, amounts to debt-free tuition for a two-year degree at one of the Alamo Colleges branches. 

“Any remaining balances that students may have after their financial aid award and what the differences with their tuition and fee balances—that's where the promise funding kicks in,” said Director of Special Projects Stephanie Vasquez

Margot said that without the help from the Alamo Promise program, she might have taken two jobs and cut back on classes. Instead, she’s focused on her studies and her time at SeaWorld has given her a new goal.

“I used to just want to do biology, just work with animals in any way I could,” she said. “But now I have a focus, and I have a drive to work with sea animals specifically.”

Seniors at 25 San Antonio high schools are eligible to apply for the second year of the Alamo Promise program. You can learn more about the program and find out which schools the program accepts applications from by going to alamo.edu/promise.

“The money I make here, I can use that to, like, cement my future instead of spending it now on tuition,” Margot said.