Austin Community College

Immigrants’ rights organization University Leadership Initiative hosted a counsel session Saturday at Austin Community College-Eastview for undocumented students reapplying to a federal, deferred-action program that gives undocumented youth temporary lawful presence in the U.S.

In June 2012, the Obama administration announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which is a two-year program that permits work authorization and prevents the deportation of undocumented immigrants between the ages of 15 and 31 who meet certain requirements. According to the University Leadership Initiative, 400 undocumented students at the University could be eligible for deferred action.

For undocumented youth who received deferred action in 2012, the grant will expire this summer, meaning many will have to reapply. Radio-television-film junior Sheridan Lagunas has worked with the University Leadership Initiative and the teachers’ union Education Austin to provide three sessions this summer that will provide applicants with free attorney services. Lagunas said attorneys review the applications for mistakes or missing documents.

“It’s important to have those free attorney resources to check if everything is right because there’s no appeal process with this application,” Lagunas said. 

Lagunas said the University Leadership Initiative hopes to help 90 undocumented immigrants with the reapplication process through legal counsel sessions and another 90 people through information sessions throughout the summer.

Lagunas, who arrived in the U.S. at the age of one, will reapply for deferred action in July. He said receiving work authorization has made attending a university more accessible for him and other undocumented students.

“Undocumented students aren’t eligible for federal grants or federal loans,” Lagunas said. “But with DACA, I’m able to work and support myself, whereas I know people in the past have had more trouble with college.”

According to Lagunas, many of the applicants have been high school students, such as Jose Garibay, a senior at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School. Garibay said he hopes to attend the University and graduate with a degree in biomedical engineering. After receiving deferred action his sophomore year of high school, Garibay said he thought he could aspire to have a professional career.

“Before I got DACA, I didn’t think about my future that much,” Garibay said. “I just wanted to get to college. But knowing that I can get a job thanks to DACA, I started finally thinking what I wanted my career to be.”

According to the Department of Homeland Security website, the deferred action program does not change a person’s status and does not provide a path to permanent residency or citizenship. Lourdes Diaz, an administrator at the Immigration Clinic, said the deferred action program is a temporary solution to a larger problem.

“Some people don’t qualify, and some people who have submitted the application do not end up getting DACA. Also, the Department of Homeland Security has the option to terminate or renew DACA whenever they would like,” Diaz said. “This program is patching a very large wound in immigration reform with a small Band-Aid.”

In the inaugural year of a new co-enrollment program, 92 freshmen are simultaneously taking classes at UT and Austin Community College, with the goal of becoming full-time UT students over the course of the next two years.


The students are enrolled in the Path to Admission through Co-Enrollment program, also known as PACE, which will allow them to take four classes at ACC as well as a UT signature course. In coming semesters, the students will be allowed to take any UT class that counts toward a 42-hour state-mandated core curriculum. Upon completion of this curriculum, the students will be admitted full-time at UT.


PACE program coordinator Cassandre Alvarado said students in the program this year were in the top 10 percent of their high school class, but were not automatically admitted into UT. This year, only students in the top eight percent of their classes were automatically admitted.


Before PACE, students could use the Coordinated Admission Program, or more traditional transfer methods, but PACE is the first coordinated co-enrollment effort that has been offered at the university, Alvarado said.


Freshman Joseph Munoz, a participant in the co-enrollment program, said he enjoys being able to participate in small classes at ACC while still being a part of campus life at UT.


“I felt that it would be good for me to be on my own and figure everything out,” Munoz said. “It’s a good way to get your feet wet before you fully jump in.” 


Although students still pay full price for their UT class, the cost of taking four classes at ACC makes their tuition much less than full-time UT students.


“It’s an interesting combination because it makes living here more affordable,” Munoz said.


Students in the program also have opportunities to talk to their advisers in a seminar once a week to help navigate both campuses and to make sure they are getting the best experience possible, Alvarado said.


Freshman Jonathan Jopio said he plans to transfer into chemical engineering after he finishes his PACE requirements. He said he felt PACE was the right fit because it allowed him to seamlessly enter into the UT culture.


“I chose to do PACE rather than any other transfer program because I wanted to be in Austin,” Jopio said.


Alvarado said she was pleased the program allows students to ease into University life.


“I’m always thrilled for new opportunities to provide designated paths into UT,” Alvarado said. “We’ve created a system so that when students become full-time students, they are really set up for success.”

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.

UT and Austin Community College have agreed to partner in efforts to increase associate degree holders by developing a reverse transfer program that will allow students to combine credits between the institutions.

The reverse transfer program will help students transfer credits completed at ACC to a four-year institution while maintaining eligibility for an associate degree. Students currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree at another institution with transferred ACC credits will also able to use past ACC credits toward an associate degree. The program also grants associate degrees to ACC alumni from the past decade if they choose to participate.

Alexis Patterson Hanes, ACC senior public information coordinator, said the partnership will show the value of the associate degree and heighten enrollment rates at the community college level.

“ACC is the largest provider of transfer students to area universities — in fact, more than 400 ACC transfer students enrolled at UT Austin in fall 2012,” Hanes said. “By creating this partnership, we are making it easier for students to earn the credential they deserve.”

Hanes said more than 43,000 students enroll at ACC each semester with about 43 percent of those students planning to transfer to a university. Research shows that students who earn their associate degree are much more likely to complete a four-year degree, Hanes said. 

“If a student’s plans change before they earn their bachelor’s, this ensures they have a marketable college credential,” Hanes said. “This is good for ACC, good for UT Austin, and most importantly, good for our students.

ACC is the only local college accredited to award associate degrees, according to ACC. 

Barbara Mink, UT education professor and ACC Board of Trustees member, said that many people choose to attend community college to complete core coursework before transferring.

“The cost is a lot lower at a community college, class sizes are usually smaller and also most faculty, in transfer courses, will also have doctorate degrees.” Mink said. “It’s a good strategy for people who want a quality education and who want to save money to go to a community college and get that two-year degree first.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the fastest-growing working credential is an associate degree. 

“Reverse transfer is an important step in our continued commitment to improve student success,” said UT President William Powers Jr. “Anything we can do to encourage undergraduate success and completion needs to be in the mix. Earning an associate degree will help keep our transfer students on track to complete their next important educational milestone — their bachelor’s degree.”

Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier (left) and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (right) were invited Thursday at the Austin Community College Eastview campus to discuss educational issues at the college level.

Photo Credit: Fanny Trang | Daily Texan Staff

The U.S. Secretary of Education praised Austin Community College when he spoke to ACC students and faculty on Thursday.

Students asked U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan questions about affordability at the ACC Eastview campus.

Duncan said community colleges should converse with the private sector to better align students’ training with employer needs. Duncan said he is surprised by the high number of available jobs and the high number of unemployed individuals.

“There are about 2 million high wage, high skilled jobs that are going unfilled,” Duncan said. “We have to break these barriers. Part of the reason we’re here is that we think ACC is doing an extraordinary job of building those public-private partnerships.”

Occupy Austin supporters chanted over Duncan’s opening remarks and said they were against corporatizing public education and yelled “our schools are not for sale. Our teachers are not for sale. Our students are not for sale.”

Occupy UT students used a similar protest approach with President William Powers Jr. to express distaste for recommendations to increase tuition in December.

Addressing the crowd’s concerns about the shortage of teachers, Duncan said many baby boomer generation teachers will retire soon. He said this makes attracting and retaining top faculty more important in the near future because it will shape higher education for the next 30 years.

“Teachers are the most altruistic folks I know.” Duncan said. “But they shouldn’t have to take a vow of poverty either.”

Although a record high of more than 45,000 students enrolled at Austin Community College this spring, the college could have to place a cap on the number of students it accepts or raise tuition if the state Legislature cuts its funding.

Enrollment increased by about 10 percent to 45,056 students from spring 2010 to the current semester, according to an ACC press release.

The college’s president and CEO Stephen Kinslow said in a press release that the school’s growth is an opportunity to discuss problems that could be caused by a drastic budget reduction. According to the House budget bill, the Legislature could cut up to $767 million from community colleges.

“While demand continues to increase, we remain focused on student success and providing the critical programs needed to support economic growth throughout the region,” Kinslow said in the press release. “ACC and other community colleges are key to closing the educational gaps in Texas, which helps drive economic recovery. Reducing community college resources would be counterproductive to the state’s goals.”

Students 25 and older make up more than 44 percent of the college’s credit enrollment, according to ACC’s website. Kinslow said in the press release the two-year school is an important resource for displaced workers, updating their training in their careers.

“In recent years, we’ve seen significant increases in the number of students who come to us already holding a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or higher,” he said.

Raine Couillard, a French junior who transferred to UT from ACC Rio Grande in the fall, said despite ACC’s high enrollment figures, she enjoyed the intimate learning environment.

“I think [the cuts are] terrible,” she said. “UT can be very intimidating, and ACC was a nice, easy way for me to realize that I wanted to keep learning.”

Couillard said she began her two years at ACC not wanting to pursue further education, but during her second year she decided to apply to UT.

ACC student Jordy Wagoner spent two years as a journalism major at UT before transferring to ACC in the fall. She said she is taking advantage of the more approachable community college environment.

“UT cost me $4,000 a semester,” Wagoner said. “ACC is only $800 to $1,000 if you live in Austin. It’s pretty cheap.”
Transfers to UT from ACC decreased from 313 in 2009 to 298 in 2010, according to the Office of Information Management and Analysis.