Texas community colleges are on the brink of a funding revolution, with a bill moving through the Texas Legislature that would change the way they are funded. The Alamo Colleges District in San Antonio has been pushing for such change, which would prioritize student success through an outcomes-based funding formula.

The district, which includes five colleges serving Bexar County and seven surrounding counties, could get an estimated $33 million in additional funding under House Bill 8, according to an analysis by the bill’s sponsor Rep. Gary VanDeaver, R-New Boston, as reported by The Texas Tribune.

Bill would reward workforce programs

Priscilla Camacho, the chief legislative, industry and external relations officer for the Alamo Colleges District, told The Report that the updated formula will focus on four key areas of student success: obtaining credentials of value, obtaining credentials in high demand areas, transferring to four-year institutions and completing sequences of courses in high school programs.

If the bill passes, Camacho said that the college will get credit for workforce credentials that have become a draw for the colleges but have not previously been recognized.

“We will now receive credit for them in terms of funding from the state, which is a huge win for us in our workforce programs,” she said.

In written testimony before the House Higher Education Committee, Kelle Kieschnick, the director of postsecondary policy for The Dallas-based Commit Partnership, said community colleges are key to bridging the educational and skills gap present across Texas communities.

Kieschnick also noted that state funding of community colleges has declined from 68% to 26% of institutional revenue over the last 40 years, with the balance paid for by higher tuition and property taxes. Like K-12 schools, the variation in property taxes creates inequity in the funding ability depending on where the community college is located.

“Despite both the urgency and the opportunity represented by the challenges we face, it is also clear that Texas’ community colleges are integral to solving our state’s workforce challenges, however, they are not appropriately resourced currently,” Kieschnick said. “By providing efficient and affordable pathways to numerous self- sustaining wage credentials, our public junior colleges are uniquely positioned to meet the demand for re-skilling and up-skilling Texas students.”

Funding will go toward student success

The current funding formula already considers student success, to a lesser extent, through an allocation decided on “student success points,” where the district has been doing well, according to Camacho.

“On the state appropriation side, we were funded based on a few different things, predominantly how many semester credit hours were achieved by students in a specific … time period that is calculated and reported to the higher ed board,” she said. “That was the bulk of it.”

A base allotment is also sent to every one of the 50 community colleges across the state.

State appropriations are a small part of the overall funding for the district, with the majority coming from property taxes levied by the district and the rest from fees and tuition.

While the bill has yet to become law, the Alamo Colleges District is optimistic about the future of community college funding in Texas. The district hopes that this change will continue to improve student success and provide necessary resources for students to achieve their goals.

“Any resources we get from this additional resource will be put towards student success,” Camacho said.

Investments could include additional academic advising to help students navigate majors and programs, as well as transfer advising for the tens-of-thousands of students that transfer to four-year institutions every year.

“Nothing is more frustrating for a student who transfers than to find out they transfer and … that course that they took doesn’t transfer and isn’t degree applicable for that institution,” she said. “We’ve helped streamline that process for students.”

Other supports that could see additional funding include “life supports” such as food pantries, advocacy centers, clothes closets and counseling services.

“We want to continue to invest in those kinds of resources for our students so that they are able to focus on their education and be able to go graduate as quickly as possible,” she said.

The House passed the bill in April. The Senate Higher Education Subcommittee passed the bill Tuesday and it is expected to be considered by the Senate later this week.