Like a parent proud of her student’s straight-A report card, Alamo Community Colleges District Board of Trustees Chair Yvonne Katz announced at a press conference Tuesday evening that the Alamo Colleges will award 12,003 degrees and certificates in 2016, far surpassing this and other goals set out by district trustees in the last 10 years.

“This achievement represents a 224% increase in the degrees awarded by the Alamo Colleges from 2006 to 2016, remarkably the largest increase in Texas and among the largest in the nation,” Katz said.

This rate of increase in degrees awarded was 11.8 times the rate of enrollment growth in Alamo Colleges in the last 10 years, she added. Minority enrollment also is up since 2006 – Hispanic by 226%, African American by 134%, and other by 85%. Alamo Colleges currently serves the largest number of Hispanic students of any community college in the nation, according to Katz.

The five colleges that make up the Alamo Colleges system – San Antonio, St. Philip’s, Palo Alto, Northeast Lakeview, and Northwest Vista — offer associate degrees, certificates, and licensures in occupational programs that prepare students for jobs, as well as arts and science courses that transfer to four-year colleges and universities and potentially lead to associate degrees.

Total enrollment for the spring 2016 semester at the five institutions was more than 59,000 students, an increase of 19% since 2005-06.

Katz announced that the four-year graduation rate for Alamo Colleges has increased as well, by 134%, and the three-year rate by 183%. She named several distinct populations that have improved on graduation rates: male students (up 197%), economically disadvantaged students (122%), and veterans (116%). Course completion rates are up 15% across the board.

“These increases are helping the Alamo Colleges to achieve equity among traditionally underserved students and (is) furthering our mission to empower our diverse communities for success,” Katz said. “This amazing achievement has been remarkable in a college system as large and diverse at the Alamo Colleges.”

Trustee Roberto Zárate (D5) attributed the various successes to a change in culture at Alamo Colleges.

“It’s not about us or the chancellor, it’s not about anybody but those doing the day-to-day work to make this happen,” Zárate said, outlining various accolades and awards Alamo Colleges has earned in recent years, including:

  • The 2016 Texas Award for Performance Excellence (TAPE) from the Quality Texas Foundation, which recognizes organizational effectiveness and sustainability.
  • Certification as one of the nation’s Leader Colleges by Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count (ATD), a national initiative focused on strategies for student completion.
  • The national Bellwether Award from the Community College Futures Assembly (CCFA) which recognizes outstanding and innovative programs in community college education.

Zárate also called out programs like Alamo Advise, Alamo Institutes, and Early College High School for removing barriers so that students can reach their fullest potential.

“As I look around the country in my role as national chair of the trustee association at other systems throughout the nation, I can say we’re at parity with the best and exceed them in some cases,” Zárate said. “We have achieved things that others have only dreamed of.”

Trustee Clint Kingsbery (D8), who chairs the student success committee for Alamo Colleges, also addressed achievement standards at the conference attended by a small crowd of trustees, administrators, faculty, and students.

Kingsbery noted that the productive grade rate – C or better – has increased by 18%, and said, “Students aren’t just getting through, they are getting through with a good, quality education. The rigor here is as good if not better as our four-year counterparts.”

The report card also showed that total assets of the Alamo Colleges Foundation have increased 290% since 2006, meaning more scholarship funds for students, Kingsbery added.

“By dramatically increasing its college completion and transfer rates,” Katz said. “the Alamo Colleges is contributing to the economic success of our students, our state, and our nation.

“By aligning community college programs by labor market outcomes, and creating supported pathways with clear university transfer support, the Alamo Colleges is helping more students achieve the significant economic benefits that come with a college degree or employer-recognized certificate.”

Top image: The entrance to the San Antonio College Welcome Center.  Photo by Scott Ball. 

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Shari Biediger has been covering business and development for the San Antonio Report since 2017. A graduate of St. Mary’s University, she has worked in the corporate and nonprofit worlds in San Antonio...