March 17, 2023
The Texas Legislature is currently considering two bills, filed identically in the House and the Senate, to increase investments in funding community colleges to support Texans earning postsecondary academic and workforce credentials. Educate Texas worked closely with other advocates to support the work of the Community College Finance Commission that laid the groundwork for this legislation and will testify in support of both bills.
By providing affordable dual credit for more students, prioritizing funding for outcomes, and recognizing the additional support needed for today’s students, House Bill 8 (HB 8) and Senate Bill 2539 (SB 2539) are poised to serve as a national model for how to fund community colleges. The state’s community colleges play a critical role in training and educating the next generation of employees to support our state’s growing economy and to lead more Texans to high-wage, in-demand careers that support upward economic mobility for them and their families.
By 2030, over 60% of Texas jobs will require some kind of postsecondary credential, but only 48% of adults in Texas today have a postsecondary credential. Community colleges are the key to filling that gap.
The Texas Legislature is considering legislation proposing a new formula to fund Texas community colleges. HB 8 filed by Representative Gary VanDeaver (R- New Boston) and its Senate counterpart, SB 2539 by Senator Brandon Creighton (R- Conroe), represent a generational opportunity to expand economic opportunities for current and future students in Texas, due to the $32.7 billion budget surplus for the biennium.
The bills propose a new outcomes-based funding model and a scholarship program for economically disadvantaged students to pursue dual credit. The bills also build off the final report submitted by the Texas Commission on Community College finance and its main components.
Community colleges provide over 93% of the workforce credentials in the state, 94% of all dual credit enrollments come from a community college, and 69% of baccalaureate degree graduates in the state have at least one semester credit hour earned at a community college on their transcript. By providing efficient and affordable pathways to living wage credentials, two-year colleges are uniquely positioned to meet the demand for reskilling and upskilling Texas students.
Presently, an economically disadvantaged student’s access to affordable academic or workforce dual credit courses depends on where the student lives, leading to sizeable gaps between dual credit earned based on socioeconomic status and between rural and urban or suburban students. By providing targeted financial aid for dual credit courses for economically disadvantaged students, more Texans can access valuable workforce or academic coursework while still in high school putting them on track for a credential of value.
The current “success points” funding model provides limited resources or predictable funding for community colleges to change practices. Colleges may improve student outcomes and still lose out on access to these funds because of the allocation-based funding, causing community colleges to compete for the same pool of funds. By creating a dynamic funding model that prioritizes credentials of value, HB 8 and SB 2539 provide a structure that can foster planning and support in meeting the needs of students and employers. This new formula would incentivize colleges to improve students’ outcomes each year without competing for a limited amount of funding.
The formula that funds our community colleges has not been significantly revised in 50 years. The current model hinders community colleges’ ability to rapidly respond to the changing workforce needs of the state and makes it harder for colleges to provide additional support to students, especially underrepresented populations like low-income students, transfer students, and adult learners.
The current community college funding model doesn’t recognize any differences between students from economically or academically disadvantaged backgrounds, or between traditional students and those who are returning as adult learners. HB 8 and SB 2539 recognizes the additional costs and targeted supports necessary for helping all students reach their goals for a credential of value.
HB 8 will be heard in the House Higher Education Committee on Monday, March 20 at 10 a.m. Click here to watch the House hearing and here to watch the Senate hearing as they stream live.
To learn more, listen to Dr. Mark Escamilla who served on the Commission that led to the bill talking about the importance of community college finance reform and Senator Hinojosa on the value of community colleges.