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Big Win for Texas’ Community Colleges with Gov. Greg Abbott Signing House Bill 8 into Law to Revamp State’s Funding Model for Two-year Public Institutions

Del Mar College President and CEO Mark Escamilla and Board of Regents Chair Carol A. Scott among leaders who served on Governor-appointed 12-member commission to develop recommendations for new funding structure based on outcomes, not enrollment

Article by Melinda Eddleman

Friday, June 9, marked a significant day, historical some say, for Texas’ 50 community colleges and how the state will allocate funding supporting its two-year public institutions. Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law House Bill 8 (HB 8), that will now shift funding based on enrollment and contact hours, known as formula funding, to an innovative new model that is based on outcomes and student success.

The new funding model will reward community colleges for students’ completion of degrees, certificates and other “credentials of value” that address in-demand workforce needs, along with crediting these institutions for student transfers to Texas public universities and high school student dual credit course completion leading to career pathways. HB 8 will also increase higher education attainability for dual credit students living in rural school districts and for adult learners through scholarship and internship opportunities.

“The State of Texas continues working to ensure our public community colleges remain competitive and able to fully support the needs of our growing, diverse workforce,” Gov. Abbott stated in a news release from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). “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.” 

He added, “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.”

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The proposed finance model resulted from more than a year’s worth of work by the Governor-appointed 12-member Texas Commission on Community College Finance. Among the lawmakers, business leaders and college officials who served on the commission were Del Mar College (DMC) President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr. Mark Escamilla and Board of Regents Chair Carol A. Scott.

Both Dr. Escamilla and Ms. Scott were present during Gov. Abbott’s signing of the bill in Austin last week.  

According to Ms. Scott, House Bill 8 represents a three way win for Texas. Students have better access to educational programs that translate to quality jobs. Those jobs match the workforce needs of local and state businesses and industries. And, both build and expand the economic vibrancy of our region and the state.

We’re especially thankful for the state lawmakers who served on the commission and championed for Texas’ new community college finance model.

Carol A. Scott, Del Mar College Board of Regents Chair

Those individuals included Rep. Gary VanDeaver and Sen. Brandon Creighton, who both sponsored the bill, and Rep. Oscar Longoria and Sen. Larry Taylor.

Other commission members included their presiding officer Woody Hunt, Senor Chairman of the Board of Directors of Hunt Companies in El Paso; Dr. Stephen Head, Lone Star College Chancellor; Dr. Brenda Hellyer, San Jacinto College Chancellor; Brian Jones, Odessa College Director of Professional Learning; Dr. Brenda Kays, Kilgore College President; and Todd Williams, CEO of The Commit Partnership in Dallas.

The commission’s recommendations to address restructuring the community college finance system were set forth in their Report to the 88th Legislature, which lawmakers received before the regular session began in January. Those recommendations parallel and support the state’s higher education strategic plan,  Building a Talent Strong Texas, that includes rewarding community colleges for positive student outcomes, increasing affordability and financial aid that’s inclusive of low-income students and increasing capacity at colleges to meet changing workforce needs. 

The new funding model is definitely a win for community colleges and all residents of Texas with student success as the central driver for this outcomes-based approach. We all share a common goal of building and maintaining a workforce relevant to regional needs and the statewide economy while providing individuals the means for a well-paying job and good standard of living.

Dr. Mark Escamilla, Del Mar College President and CEO

“Furthermore, this legislation more equitably supports smaller community college districts and will reinforce access to higher education for a very diverse student population living across Texas, including low-income rural students and adult learners,” he added. “We’re very grateful for Gov. Abbot and our state lawmakers for passing this bill and giving current and future students the opportunity to acquire the education needed to join one of the best workforces in the nation.”

Now that HB 8 has passed, an additional $683 million allocation in the state budget will support community college funding tied to the measurable outcomes currently defined by the bill,  including:

§  the number of “credentials of value” awarded such as associate degrees, certificates and other credentials from both credit and noncredit programs that position completers for in-demand jobs. In addition to DMC academic programs targeting careers supporting Texas’ workforce goals, the Continuing Education and Off-Campus Programs Division offers short-term job-focused programs that lead to state licensures and certifications that meet the state’s “credentials of value” criteria.

§  the “credentials of value” awarded in high-demand fields that address employers’ needs for workers with specific skills. The College offers certificates and associate degrees through its credit programs focused on career pathways ranging from health sciences to industrial technology to public service fields, among others. DMC Continuing Education (CE) also offers short-term workforce-focused programs that lead to state licensure or certification, such as certified nurse aide, welding, transportation training and others. Continuing Education awards Occupational Skills Awards (OSAs) and Institutional Credential that Leads to a Licensure or Certification (ICLC) award. Between 2020 and 2022, CE awarded 100 OSAs and over 4,400 ICLCs.

§  successful student transfers from community colleges to four-year universities for which two-year institutions have not receive credit in the past. During the 2021-2022 academic year, the total number of DMC students who transferred to a Texas public university was 2,228. The state’s new model will positively impact funds DMC receives for successful transfers such as those completed that year.

§  high school students’ completion of dual credit courses that apply toward academic and workforce program requirements. Example: In fall 2022, Del Mar College partnered with 37 independent school districts and 38 during spring 2023 to offer dual credit courses. The College provided courses to 5,319 dual credit students overall during these two semesters.

The new legislation increases funding for the Texas Educational Opportunity Grant (TEOG), a program that specifically provides financial aid to community college students. Originally, state funding only covered 28% of students who qualified for the grant, but now the state will raise that percentage to 70%. For the 2022-2023 academic year, Del Mar College awarded TEOG funds to approximately 340 eligible students.

Additionally, the signed bill creates the Financial Aid for Swift Transfer (FAST) Scholarship Program for low-income dual credit students.

These investments are significant moves that will ease the financial burden students might bear while pursuing course or program completion. Overall, legislation resulting from House Bill 8 gives the state’s community colleges dynamic resources to grow their enrollments while more students build their future and the Texas workforce through affordable higher education.

Dr. Mark Escamilla, Del Mar College President and CEO
About Del Mar College

Del Mar College empowers students to achieve their dreams. We offer quality programs, individual attention, outstanding instruction through faculty with real-world experience and affordable costs to credit and noncredit students in Corpus Christi and the South Texas Coastal Bend area. Nationally recognized while locally focused, we’re ranked in the top two percent of community colleges in the country granting associate degrees to Hispanic students (Community College Week). Del Mar College focuses on offering our students programs that match current or emerging career opportunities. Whether students are interested in the fine arts, sciences, business, occupational or technical areas, students get the education they need for the future they want at Del Mar College.