By STEVI BRESHEARS, Editor in Chief |
Preliminary proposals for the new Texas state budget show an increase for Amarillo College funding and AC officials are reaching out to state lawmakers as the legislative session gets underway. President Russell Lowery-Hart and several regents recently made a trip to Austin.
“Our regents really were the advocates, and they were remarkable in their ability to tell the AC story to advocate for our faculty, staff and students,” Lowery-Hart said. “They did an exceptionally good job advocating for our community and its college.”
According to the Texas Association of Community Colleges, the three policy priorities for the current legislative session are boosting community college funding, broadening access to dual credit and securing more funds for workforce education.
“The only proposed legislation that’s out yet is the budget, proposed budgets by both the House and the Senate,” legislative chair Anette Carlisle said. “They both support community colleges.”
The initially proposed budgets show a funding increase for AC.
“The initial budget proposal is bigger than any budget we’ve had from the state in a decade. Our initial legislative agenda was to go down and ask for more funding and ask for more grants in workforce and even ask for some funding for dual credit. After we saw the initial budget, our legislative agenda is simply to ask them to maintain the budget that they’ve proposed,” Lowery-Hart said. “If they maintain the budget that they’ve proposed, we can manage the workplace and dual credit concerns that we have.”
The TACC has recommended a plan that would expand the opportunity for dual credit to more students in Texas. The statewide goal is for at least 30 percent of high school graduates to have earned at least 12 dual credit hours by 2030.
“The concern we have with dual credit across the state is that some communities and their colleges, because they have such a huge tax base, don’t charge anything for dual credit. Then, you have some schools that charge the full tuition and fees rate that any student would pay, and we’re in the middle because our dual credit pays about half of what a typical class would cost,” Lowery-Hart said. “Across the state, there’s this real disparity in what communities can afford, so what we’re asking is for the state to kind of provide funding for the first 12-15 hours of every student’s dual credit pathway to provide some equity to what dual credit costs.”
Lowery-Hart also said that AC has some of its own goals for the session.
“Our institutional goals are twofold: one is to remind legislators that community colleges are the economic engine of our state,” he said. “The second goal is to help legislators understand how innovative Amarillo College is being, so that they can see that higher ed is not stuck in ‘what was’ — we’re truly redefining higher education at Amarillo College and we want them to know we’re being innovative.”