A new Jaguar Promise program will provide free tuition, fees and book stipends to eligible students at Texas A&M University-San Antonio, President Salvador Hector Ochoa announced during his first press conference as university president Sept. 5.
The Jaguar Promise, which is set to launch in the fall of 2024, provides free tuition, fees and a $300 book stipend to incoming freshmen and transfer students who meet the requirements.
The announcement comes after a mysterious story posted Aug. 31 on the university’s Instagram page asking students to “save the date for the official announcement of a transformative new program at A&M-SA.”
Jaguar Program requirements
The new program is meant to expand on A&M-San Antonio’s existing program the Achiever Promise, a last-dollar scholarship for students who graduated in the top 10% of their high school or have earned at least 30 credit hours from an early college high school. Last dollar scholarships only kick in after different scholarships and financial aid have gone through.
In addition to being offered to students who graduated in the top 10% and earned at least 30 credit hours, the Jaguar Promise is available to:
- students who graduated in the top 11%-35% from a Texas high school with a family adjusted gross income of $70,000 or less and
- transfer students with an associate degree or 60 credit hours who have a family adjusted gross income of $70,000 or less.
“It is among one of the most comprehensive promise programs in our state,” Ochoa said.
Promises at other A&M schools
Currently Texas A&M University-Commerce has a President’s Promise, a last-dollar tuition scholarship offered to freshmen and transfer students who meet specific criteria.
Texas A&M University-Kingsville has the Javelina Promise, which fully covers tuition and fees for first-year students, transfers and current undergraduate students as long as they are Texas residents and have a family income of $65,000 or less.
Texas A&M University has Aggie Assurance, which made a commitment to cover tuition and fees for students with a family income of $60,000 or less starting this year.
Ochoa said the university would continue to honor the tuition assistance given to current eligible A&M-San Antonio students through the Achiever Promise.
“We realize that there are multiple pathways to higher education, and we want all of those pathways to be clear of financial barriers for our students,” Ochoa said. “So we’re expanding the promise to include not just incoming freshmen, but now also our transfer students.”
Traditional and non-traditional students to benefit alike
Treasure Cross-Mills, a student at Northwest Vista College and mom of four, spoke at the press conference about the impact of the Jaguar Promise on her academic pursuits.
“The Jaguar Promise program is like a lifeline,” Cross-Mills said. “It’s exciting knowing I have options, that I can transfer and step onto a university campus next year when I thought I was at the end of my resources and my education career.”
Cross-Mills plans to attend A&M-San Antonio next year for a communications degree after she graduates from Vista in May.
Students from South Bexar County school districts are predicted to be impacted too, as the Promise creates a more direct pipeline between A&M-San Antonio and the high schools around it, Ochoa said.
“The city of San Antonio and beyond will be the true beneficiaries of our graduates.”
Jeanette Ball, the superintendent for Southwest Independent School District, spoke at the press conference about her conviction in the power of education and its ability to change lives.
“I don’t want our students to have to believe they can’t [go to college] for economical reasons, for race reasons or because it’s not something that’s available to them,” Ball said. “Now all of this is in their backyard.”
The relationship of funding and enrollment to the Jaguar Promise
Brandy McLelland, the vice president of enrollment management at the university, said the funding for the promise came from a variety of places: increased federal funding, state funding and philanthropy from the A&M System and local donors.
“All of this combined together makes this funding possible,” McLelland said. “We have reason to believe it will be a very popular program, because we here at A&M-Antonio have been growing.”
Currently the university has an enrollment of 7,800, the largest it’s ever been since the university became a stand-alone institution.
McLelland said students benefiting from the Jaguar Promise must be enrolled in at least 12 credit hours at A&M-San Antonio and maintain a good academic standing.
Growing up in the Rio Grande Valley, Ochoa said he often saw the wasted potential of his classmates as they didn’t go on to higher education after high school.
“Not because they lacked the will, the talent or the ability,” Ochoa said. “But because they lacked the resources.”