New TSUS partnership will offer additional college aid for nontraditional students

Senior News Reporter
Freshman students listen to their fellow peers give a presentation Sept. 22 during their University Seminar class.

Higher education may soon be more accessible for nontraditional students.

Texas State University System officials announced a partnership with Modern State Alliances Sept. 10 to offer a program called “Freshman Year for Free.”

The program will provide free online Advanced Placement-style classes for nontraditional students beginning next fall, said Mike Wintemute, associate vice chancellor for governmental relations for TSUS. 

Modern States Alliances will offer 30 free online open courses, including course material, digital textbooks and possibly online tutoring, Heintze said.

After completing a course, students will be required to take its corresponding AP or College Level Examination Program test to receive credit at participating universities, he said.

“(TSUS) is always looking for new ways to reduce the cost of a college degree,” Wintemute said.

The “Freshman Year for Free” program is aimed at nontraditional students such as older, working adults, said Michael Heintze, associate vice president of enrollment management and marketing.

“(The students) are thinking of going back to school, but they are unsure if they can do it,” Henitze said. “They are unsure (because) of the cost.” 

Students who enrolled at Texas State this fall can expect to pay at least $39,760 in tuition over the course of four years, not accounting for any increase in annual cost of room and board, according to the university’s website. 

Since the cost of tuition for this fall and next spring is $9,940, every hour of credit costs approximately $331, according to the website.

“The program has good intent and it may have success in encouraging working adults toward a college program,” Heintze said. “It’s a great way for them to explore their possibilities.”

“If (the program) helps a person realize a dream and improve their ability to support their family, that’s what higher education is about,” Heintze said.

Wintemute said 57 percent of students take out loans for their first year at Texas State. The program could help decrease that percentage.

TSUS is the first public system in Texas to partner with the program.

Wintemute said TSUS officials began discussing the possibility of a partnership with Modern States Alliance during the summer. Presidents from each university within the system met to discuss the topic of partnership before the announcement was made. 

“As a public university system, our first mission is to educate Texas,” Wintemute said. “While there might be concern for loss of revenue, there is a greater good—giving students an opportunity to reach goals.”

He said 72 percent of students have to work while earning their college degree.

“Anything we can do to reduce the burden on (students) is worth it,” Wintemute said.

Rodrigo Lozano, biology senior, said he came to the university with enough credit from AP tests to be considered a junior.

“The AP tests allowed me to cut down on the amount of hours that I have to take,” Lozano said. “That saved me a lot of money.”

Lozano said he estimates that he saved nearly $32,000. He is going to use the money he saved to further his dream of becoming a doctor. 

“My dad never finished college,” Lozano said. “So he has to work really hard to support his family. My dad really pushes me to work hard now so that I can have a better life.”

Lozano said his dad works two jobs and worries about finances.

“AP tests gave me a chance at college,” Lozano said. “I don’t regret a single test I took, even the ones I didn’t get credit for. I would have taken more if I could.”

Follow Darcy Sprague on Twitter @darcy_days.