The TDC Mission

FEATURE Gorthey Nubel

The Texas Debate Collective (TDC) was created in 2009 to allow low-income students to access the highest levels of competitive debate. Expensive training camps are often where top debaters learn and practice their skills over the summer in preparation for the next season. But, students without significant financial resources are shut out from those opportunities. These financial barriers to participation are also unequally distributed; students of color are more likely than their white peers to be unable to participate in debate for financial reasons. TDC’s mission is to make debate available for everyone. In its first year, TDC had no budget and housed all students and staff in the homes of generous members of the debate community. Since then, TDC has become one of the top debate camps in the country for students at the highest levels of competition while also giving the majority of its students scholarships.


Debate is expensive.

One of the major obstacles that low-income students face when trying to compete in debate is that they usually lack access to learned, experienced, and competitively successful debate teachers. Historically, successful debaters attend multiple debate camps each summer, hire personal coaches, and travel to tournaments across the country where they will interact with other learned debate judges and coaches.

Estimates of the year-round costs of participating in high school debate range from $2,000 to upwards of $12,000.

None of that comes cheap: top-tier debate camps typically charge $2000-$2500, which does not include travel costs, and hiring a coach with knowledge of philosophy, political science, and debate strategy costs $4000 or more.

Additionally, just attending debate tournaments during the year costs money. From tournament entry fees, to travel and lodging costs, even to buying suits—costs pile up fast.

Clearly, for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, these costs are a huge barrier to accessing the benefits of debate. Yet, it is disadvantaged students who have the most to gain from participating in the debate community. After school debate programs, weekend tournaments, and summer camps all serve to create a longer school day and school year, which research shows significantly helps to close the achievement gap. Further, the constant reinforcement of critical thinking and persuasive skills makes these students more attractive candidates for colleges across Texas and America.

CAMP 2015 Full Shot

Since its inception in 2009, TDC has focused on providing opportunities to students from disadvantaged schools to get the same access to high quality instruction as their peers. TDC’s summer institute provides partial and full ride scholarships on a needs basis.

How We Help Students

In 2015, TDC gave away 43 scholarships for a total of $64,500. While providing reduced or free access to the summer institute, TDC manages to maintain the highest quality of instruction. At camp, our students are offered an unparalleled opportunity to receive advanced instruction in philosophy, as well as in the art of written and oral forms of persuasive argumentation. The TDC staff consists of some of the most experienced debate coaches in the country, including 13 state and 6 national champions or runners-up. For more information on the student institute, click here. 

How We Help Teachers

TDC’s Teacher’s Institute is both the first major expansion of our camp and the advancement of our mission to close the achievement gap. Free of charge, the institute gives the opportunity for full-time high school teachers to improve their ability to instruct students in the philosophies and argumentative skills needed to compete at the most rigorous levels of high school debate. TDC believes that by training teachers of disadvantaged students, we can have an even greater impact in the community. For more information, click here.

Where We Go From Here

While we’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, we think we can do more with your help. We have world-class instruction at our summer institutes, but we can reach more students and more teachers. And we can make sure that those students and teachers have our support for the entire year. In the coming years, TDC intends to begin providing year-round support to students and teachers. We want to use our resources to enable under privileged students to overcome the educational and economic barriers – like lodging, food, entry fee and clothing costs – that stand in the way of deserving children reaping the rich rewards of the debate community.

But we can’t do it without your help. To tackle these changes we need support in the form of monetary and physical donations and scholarships.

We have some lofty goals, but we think students are worth it. Financial constraints should never be a barrier to entry in an activity that offers so many benefits to students (and coaches!) willing to learn.

Find out how you can help.

The Obstacles to Debate Success

How TDC Helps

Find out how you can help.