El Pasoan leads efforts to review funding for Texas community colleges

A newly formed state commission to deal with community college funding will be the first to undertake this effort in nearly 50 years.

Established during the 87th Texas Legislature by State Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, the Commission on Community College Funding is a 12-member group tasked with making recommendations on the state’s funding formula for community colleges ahead of Texas’ 88th Legislature in 2023.

El Pasoan Woody Hunt, chairman of the commission, was appointed by Governor Greg Abbott. The rest of the commission is made up of two state senators, two state representatives, and community members.

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“I think the role of the commission is to go through a process that builds credibility around our recommendations so that we can convince the legislature and the executive that these policies are worth investing in,” Hunt said.

Guillaume Serrata

El Paso Community College president William Serrata, who is also president of the Texas Association of Community Colleges, said state funding has declined significantly for community colleges.

“In 1984, 72% of the EPCC budget was state credits and now (state) credits represent around 23% of our budget, so it’s a little less than a third”, did he declare. “And so other parts of the funding mechanisms have to offset this budget.”

Tuition fees and local property taxes now make up the majority of the school’s budget, Serrata said.

“In 1973, there weren’t 50 community colleges,” Serrata said, referring to the current number of community colleges in Texas. “This is the last time they looked at funding.

The commission will also be a critical step in increasing the state’s competitiveness nationally and internationally, Hunt said.

“The best way to look at it (competitiveness) is if you don’t have the certificates or diplomas to do the job, or the highest paying jobs, they will go elsewhere,” he said. “Or we’ll have jobs but they won’t be paid as well. So I see this as a lost income and a lost opportunity.

Wood hunting

In 2017, community colleges enrolled 46% of higher education students in Texas. But due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, national trends have shown a 10% drop in registrations since last year. EPCC saw a 6% drop this fall semester, following a 10% drop the year before.

“Community colleges are the place where everything connects for several reasons. They provide most of the vocational training; probably 90% of this takes place in community college systems, ”Hunt said. “They are disproportionately colored when it comes to their student body, which is where we have a big gap in academic performance. And so the success of the community college is really going to determine whether the state will be able to meet (some) goals. “

The commission has met twice in Austin and will meet once more in January before splitting into three subcommittees that focus on institutions, student success and employers, Hunt said.

“We are collecting testimonials from people inside and outside the state that we need to hear about best practices and our alternatives when it comes to funding our community colleges,” he said. -he declares.

A final report containing the collected data and testimony will be submitted to Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Speaker of the House Dade Phelan.

“We’re not going to add value to the long-term solution if we come up with policies that are funded in the short term, but are not sustainable over time. So our challenge is to (create) a better policy that is sustainable and to advocate for this sustainable investment throughout the legislative process, ”said Hunt. “But it is certainly persuasion based on good data, but beyond that is for the legislature to decide.”

Cover photo: A student completes the day’s classes at the Valle Verde Campus of El Paso Community College. (Corrie Boudreaux / El Paso Matters)

Disclosure: The Woody and Gayle Hunt Family Foundation financially supports El Paso Matters.

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