Partnership with ACC is beneficial

A new arrangement between Austin Community College and UT-Austin will grant students meeting minimum eligibility requirements at ACC automatic admission to UT, starting fall 2013. The program, called the Path to Admission through Co-Enrollment (PACE), applies to Texas residents who are eligible for automatic admission to UT-Austin under the state’s Top Ten Percent Law but nevertheless cannot enroll because of admission caps. In 2012, that would have applied to students graduating high school in the 9th and 10th percentiles.

PACE will allow qualified, dedicated students to enjoy the UT education promised to them by the law and provide an opportunity to reside in Austin uninterruptedly, thus avoiding the often difficult transition that transfer students from other programs face. For qualifying students, PACE merely standardizes an existing tactic — enrolling at ACC with the intention to transfer to UT-Austin — which will help attract top students and make the University more competitive.

Our campus’s location in the heart of Austin is a powerful attractive force for potential UT students that should not be underestimated. Logan Meyers, a freshman at ACC from Dallas, did not get into UT-Austin, his first-choice college, during his senior year of high school. Even though Meyers was given an opportunity to transfer to UT-Austin after a year at another university within the UT System as a part of the Coordinated Admissions Program, he chose not to take it. Instead, he enrolled at ACC, saying, “I just wanted to be in Austin. That’s pretty much what it came down to.”

Meyers, who hopes to transfer to UT-Austin, is the type of student the PACE program aims to attract. David Laude, senior vice provost for enrollment and graduation management, says that PACE will provide those students a UT-quality education, even if most of their first year is spent down the street at the ACC Rio Grande campus.

UT students, who fork over thousands more in tuition dollars than their counterparts at community colleges, may be unhappy to hear that. But ACC offers benefits in its introductory courses that UT cannot, most notably a lower student-to-professor ratio. Meyers echoes Laude’s sentiment in his praise of introductory courses at ACC thus far, emphasizing especially the benefits of small class size. “I haven’t ever been enrolled at UT,” Meyers says, “But I think that there’s definitely a possibility that the courses could be comparable [to those at UT-Austin].”

Another of PACE’s attractive qualities is the comparative affordability of ACC tuition. Speaking at a financial aid panel last Thursday, Laude expressed his hopes that the program will save students thousands of dollars when speaking at a financial aid panel last Thursday. Friday’s press release also touted PACE’s potential financial benefits for participating students. Because PACE students will not be required to pay ACC’s out-of-district fee, the total tuition payments for PACE students in their first semester is estimated to be nearly $2000 cheaper than their counterparts’ tuition at UT.

Many aspiring UT students, especially those from more competitive high schools, work diligently to secure a spot in the top 10 percent of their graduating classes. It is understandable but unfortunate that, despite state law, UT-Austin can’t offer every one of them immediate admission. We support PACE because it will provide those qualified students a cost-saving avenue to reach UT-Austin without the upheaval of having to change cities. PACE is a step in the right direction to make UT-Austin more attractive, affordable and competitive.