By Stevi Breshears
The Achievement through Commitment to Education, or ACE, Scholarship Program, which was previously available to students at Caprock and Palo Duro and some students at Tascosa high schools, may be expanded to include eligible students from all four high schools in Amarillo. In the past, the program covered tuition and fees for both Amarillo College and West Texas A&M University, but with the proposed expansion, the program would only cover tuition at Amarillo College and books up to $70.00 each.
The Amarillo Independent School District Board is waiting for more details before reaching a final decision on the expansion, but it is estimated that they will vote on the program in October.
“I’m hopeful that it will increase our enrollment,” Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, AC president, said. “We’ve made investments in six or seven new faculty positions this year that should make it easier for us to absorb those new students.”
Students are also excited about the expansion.
“I think that it’s wonderful that ACE is expanding. I know how helpful it is for me to receive help from them so I think it’s definitely going to open many doors especially for students new to college,” Sheida Doraji, an AC graduate, said. Doraji is now a biology major at WT, and is still attending school with the help of ACE.
One concern about the removal of WT from the ACE program is a potential decline in the number who transfer to WT; however, Lowery-Hart isn’t worried.
“Our goal is to help as many of our students transfer to WT as possible, so I actually think the program will increase transfers to WT,” he said.
For some students, ACE plays a huge role in where they will transfer after graduating from AC.
“Personally, I chose to go to WTAMU because it was close to home, but ACE also had a lot to do with my decision,” Doraji said. “I would have been willing to go anywhere that ACE directed me to so that I would be able to focus on my classes and not have to worry about my next class payment.”
The main focus of the ACE program is to prepare students for post-secondary education.
“The ACE staff constantly checked up on me and made sure I was maintaining the attendance and grade requirements,” Damaris Rangel, a criminal justice major, said.
One goal of the ACE expansion is to increase the number of students in the community that attend college.
“Right now, 70 percent of our community has no post-secondary education,” Lowery-Hart said. “For the community to continue to grow and for its economy to expand, we need more students to get a certificate or a degree and transfer.”
Lowery-Hart said he is excited about the ACE expansion and the positive changes it will bring to AC. “I think it’s an incredible opportunity for our community,” he said.