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Texas colleges near state line face funding problem

The way the State of Texas measures student success doesn't include the out-of-state graduates who return home for work or further study.

Audio transcript

Haslett: A change in the way the state of Texas provides financial support for community colleges is likely to have a particularly hard impact on Paris Junior College, starting this fall. The school has already been dealing with a significant drop in state funding over the past decade. Community colleges have three main sources of income – tuition and fees, state money, and property taxes. In Paris, the contribution from the State of Texas has gone from being over half of the operating budget to a little less than a third.

Anglin: State funding – we’ve gone from being funded about 57 percent down to about 32 percent. So that’s had to be offset with tuition and fees.

Haslett: That’s Paris Junior College President Pamela Anglin. Within the context of reduced public support, there’s a new model for state funding that will take effect in September. Texas will be allocating resources to community colleges based on what are called “success measures.” As you might think, those are derived from statistics. The criteria include the numbers of students who complete certain courses, who accumulate a certain amount of coursework or complete a program of study. But also included are the number of students who go on to a four-year institution or go directly into full-time work. Sounds fair enough, perhaps, but there’s a problem there for Paris.

Anglin: When our students transfer to an Oklahoma institution, they’re not counted in that. If they transfer to A&M-Commerce, they’re counted. But if they transfer to an Oklahom university, they don’t get counted. It’s the same way with looking at the employability of our students. They match our students with the Texas Workforce Commission database. So if our students get employed in Texas, we get credit for them, but if they’re employed in Oklahoma, we don’t get credit for them.

Haslett: Being so close to the state line, quite a few students at Paris Junior College are from Oklahoma and return to their home state to work or pursue a bachelor’s degree. And Paris isn’t the only college where a significant number of students might leave Texas after graduation.

Anglin: Every community college in Texas that’s a border school – we look at Panola down in Carthage, Texarkana – with Louisiana and Arkansas and Oklahoma – and then us. Grayson County Community College in Denison, they have quite a few students from Oklahoma, get up to Vernon – so every school that sits on the state border is in the same situation we’re in.

Haslett: Anglin also says that students who live in an Oklahoma county that borders Texas don’t pay the usual out-of-state tuition rates – those students pay the same amount as a Texas resident who lives out of the Paris Junior College district. The Texas Legislature meets every two years, so education funding is disbursed in biennial packages, with the new biennium beginning this September. So, there’s nothing Paris can do about the allocations that have already been determined, though Anglin says that the school will try to quantify those success measures that aren’t showing up using the state’s current criteria.

Anglin: We are starting to. We’re asking especially our faculty that are in the workforce areas – they’re being asked to track all of their students so that we know and we will self-report that to the state.

Haslett: Despite the way the numbers won’t reflect actual student outcomes, Anglin says that in general, the state’s new funding model is a good one.

Anglin: We support the performance funding. I think that that was inevitable, and I think in the long run, it’s going to be good for all of us, but – it’s a little bumpy here at the start.

Haslett: In summary, it’s a case of a new institutional policy having an unintended effect. Junior colleges and state officials have about two years to fix the problem before the Texas Legislature convenes for its next regular session in 2015. For KETR News, this is Mark Haslett.

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