AUSTIN (Nexstar) — State lawmakers are considering a complete overhaul of how Texas divvies up funding to community colleges across the state.
On Friday, the Texas House Appropriations Committee held a hearing to discuss access to and affordability of higher education.
That included testimony from Higher Education Commissioner Harrison Keller, who also heads the Texas Commission on College Community Funding.
The commission was established in the 87th legislature, tasked with evaluating how the state distributes funds to community colleges. It just published its first draft of recommendations ahead of a meeting Monday.
“Currently, there is an allocation method that is essentially based upon what’s called contact hours, what is the enrollment look like, at a certain point at the start of every semester, and then and that’s used as sort of a base for the appropriations,” Ray Martinez with the Texas Association of Community Colleges explained Friday.
That’s in addition to the base amount distributed to each school.
Now, they’re proposing a new method based on student outcomes to calculate how much each school gets.
“The production of high-value credentials, for example, it could be a credential, it could be an associate degree, or it could be a workforce education credential, a Level One or Level Two certificate,” Martinez explained.
The new process would also incentivize programs that are needed to fill workforce gaps in the community.
“It would be based upon high-need occupational pathways, right? So if we’re in an era where we actually need more, not just nurses, but perhaps even phlebotomists, the folks that actually draw blood at a lab, for example, then then we should incentivize or provide funding for community colleges to be able to produce those types of credentials,” Martinez said.
Additionally, the commission recommends increasing the amount of financial aid the state offers students attending community colleges.
Right now, the state is only able to provide aid to 28% of the students that qualify under the Texas Educational Opportunity Grant Program.
“Commissioner Harrison Keller in the in the hearing this morning, talked about the importance of trying to move funding for TEOG for community college students, much higher than just 28% being able to be funded and aim for at least 70%,” Martinez said, adding that he’s hopeful, but this is only the start of the legislative process.
Austin Community College released a statement to KXAN about the proposal, stating, “ACC is hopeful that the recommendations from the Community College Finance Commission will create more avenues for educational and workforce success for Central Texans. In particular, recommendations that reward student achievement in critical-need workforce programs and outcomes-based funding are issues that community colleges and ACC have long supported.”
The statement continues, “Here in Central Texas, we also recognize the importance of ensuring ACC remains affordable. In that sense, we are encouraged by the Commission’s stretch goal of increasing student take-up of the Texas Educational Opportunity Grant program to 70 percent of eligible students.”
The next legislative session begins in January when lawmakers would be able to consider the commission’s recommendations.