Texas Adopts ‘Outcome-Centered’ Community College Funding Plan with $2.2B Over Next Two Years

Texas is reforming its community college finance system to align policy and funding incentives with "the rapidly changing needs of the workforce," the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board said.

The state of Texas has passed legislation for what it called an innovative new $2.2 billion model to fund community colleges in the state that centers on outcomes and rewards colleges for awarding degrees, certificates, and other “credentials of value.”

The legislation was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday and will provide funding for the colleges over the next two years.

“Texas community colleges are uniquely positioned to play a key role in helping more Texans earn the credentials required for high-demand, well-paying jobs,” Commissioner of Higher Education Harrison Keller said in a statement. “By signing HB 8 into law, policymakers have marked a commitment to fund community colleges in ways that align our state’s emerging workforce needs with strategic funding, resources, and postsecondary opportunities that lead to a credential of value.”

The previous model awarded Texas’ 50 community college districts about $1.8 billion for the coming two-year period, the Texas Tribune reported, so the newly passed increase will give the colleges nearly 25% in additional funding.

Strong Texas economy depends on educated workforce

Abbott said in a statement that the state will work to ensure its public community colleges remain competitive and support a growing, diverse workforce.

“House Bill 8 will be an important tool to help enhance the role of public junior colleges in workforce training and preparation for high-demand careers,” Abbott said. “I thank the Texas Legislature for sending this bill to my desk to reward community colleges based on positive student outcomes and allow students to enroll in dual credit courses at no additional cost. The future of Texas remains bright thanks to the educational opportunities provided by community colleges and the hardworking students who will help build the Texas of tomorrow.”

The enactment was the culmination of months of work by legislators, community college leaders, and the business community, and expands upon the yearlong efforts of the Texas Commission on Community College Finance (TxCCCF), according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

“I’m incredibly grateful to our legislators and to Gov. Abbott for their commitment to advancing higher education in our great state,” Chairman of the Coordinating Board Dr. Fred Farias said in a statement. “Texas’ economic competitiveness depends on an educated workforce and our community colleges serve a critical role in giving more Texans the opportunity to earn credentials of value.”

Focused on outcomes

Texas will reform its community college finance system to align policy and funding incentives with the rapidly changing needs of the workforce, the coordinating board said. Also, the plan puts dual credit students in high schools on pathways toward meaningful credentials and expands opportunities for adult learners.

The bill’s passage and the allocation of $683 million in the state budget positions Texas as a national leader in linking funding for community colleges to measurable student-centric outcomes, state officials said.

These outcomes include:

  • The number of credentials of value awarded, including badges, certificates, and degrees, that position graduates for well-paying jobs.
  • Credentials of value focus on in-demand fields where employers are looking for skilled employees.
  • Successful student transfers from community colleges to four-year universities.
  • Completion of a sequence of dual credit courses by high school students, which can set them on early pathways to success.

The state said that the legislation transfers the Texas Adult Career Education (ACE) program from Austin Community College to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and creates the Financial Aid for Swift Transfer (FAST) scholarship program for low-income dual credit students.

“The passage of this historic bill is a direct result of the consistent and dedicated effort from our 50 community college districts, our education partners, business and industry, and, of course, our lawmakers who made this a top priority this legislative session,” Texas Association of Community Colleges President and CEO Ray Martinez III said in a statement. “Our Texas community colleges look forward to leading the nation in higher education innovation.”

Community colleges serve almost half of all Texas postsecondary students

The legislation was based on recommendations in the TxCCCF report, submitted to state leaders in advance of the 88th legislative session. It provided three sets of recommendations for a new model in support of the goals in Building a Talent Strong Texas, the state’s strategic plan for higher education:

  • Reward community colleges for positive student outcomes.
  • Increase affordability and financial aid, including for low-income students.
  • Increase capacity at colleges to meet changing workforce needs.

“Texas’s community colleges enroll and serve almost half of all students pursuing postsecondary education in our state, so they are an important engine that is propelling our future workforce and economy,” TxCCCF Chair Woody L. Hunt said in a statement. “This innovative funding will help community colleges make strategic decisions about how they best prepare their students to successfully enter the workforce or successfully transfer to a four-year university after graduation and ensure that all students are set up for success. This will strengthen our state and workforce for generations to come.”

Created by the Texas Legislature in 1965, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board serves as a resource, partner, and advocate for Texas higher education. 

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