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Texas commission proposes community college funding overhaul

The report suggests that community college be made more affordable for low income students by increasing financial aid through the Texas Education Opportunity Grant.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A proposed new funding model could soon mean more money for community colleges across the state of Texas -- including our very own Del Mar College.

It comes from the Texas Commission on Community College Finance's recommendation to lawmakers as something to take up when the 88th Texas Legislature convenes in January.

Right now, there are 50 community college districts in the state, and they get their funding primarily through tuition and property taxes. The proposal by the commission put in place by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott would also reward colleges with state money based on performance -- specifically, in the number of students who earn credentials, graduate or transfer to four-year universities.   

The report concedes that if community colleges are going to play key roles in helping Texans earn a self-sustaining wage, then more money will need to come from the state.

It's a move that officials with Del Mar are backing as state funding currently offsets only about 20-percent of what they need to operate and educate. Two of the people serving on the 12-member commission made up of college officials, business leaders and lawmakers are Del Mar President Mark Escamilla and Chair of the Board of Regents Carol Scott.

They are both calling on lawmakers to tie more college funding to measurable outcomes.

“We are going to earn that money, so it’s going to be a dynamic source of funding through the state of Texas. As completions and certificates and transfers and dual enrollment grows, we will get credit for all of that," Scott said.

At the same time, the report recommends that community college be made more affordable for low income students by increasing financial aid through the Texas Education Opportunity Grant.

“Currently, it’s funded at about 28 or 29% of eligible students. This recommendation and the funding that goes along with it is going to raise that to 70% of eligible students," Scott said.

In addition, they are looking for more support for workforce training programs, and ways to make it easier for economically disadvantaged high school students to enroll in those dual credit courses.

"For the first time in, I think, the history of community colleges, the state is considering making a sizable investment in affordability for the students," Escamilla said.

Del Mar College primarily serves four-and-a-half counties in the Coastal Bend, but with distance learning, their reach extends throughout the state. The proposals could help address workforce shortages by ensuring that more Texans have what they need to build a career. 

The commission spent more than a year putting the report together. 

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