Dual credit task force nears end

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Fiscal services department provides insight on funding background.

By R. Eguia 

sac-ranger@alamo.edu 

Recommendations generated by the dual credit task force over the course of six meetings are being synthesized into an inclusive blueprint that will be presented to high school superintendents then the chancellor for further review and funding considerations.

The academic success team for this district organized the task force when House Bill 505 removed the coordinating board’s authority to regulate dual credit programs. Standards will be generated by independent community colleges across the state.

High school dual credit teachers, liaisons, principals and superintendents from 15 school districts in the college district’s service area shared experiences with dual credit staff from this district to provide insight on the needs of the expanding program.

Educate Texas, a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening public and higher education system, facilitated six meetings with task force that investigated access, advising, rigor and most recently, resources.

On March 31, the task force concentrated on dual credit resources, both academic and fiscal.

“Once we have determined what this program is going to need to provide quality instruction and be successful, we are going to have to figure out how to pay for it. Government mandates do not come with funding,” Jo Carol Fabianke, vice chancellor of academic success, said.

The end of the meeting was dedicated to a presentation by this district’s fiscal services department explaining how dual credit has been funded in the past and why it needs to be reformed.

Pamela K. Ansboury, associate vice chancellor of finance and fiscal services, said dual credit has traditionally been paid for by contact hour funding.

The chief budget officer for this district, Shayne West, explained why the state Legislature funding for this district has significantly declined from almost 80 percent of the budget to its current 25 percent when the Legislature switched from formula funding to the current three-pronged approach.

The Legislature grants $1 million to every community college system in the state and then districts receive funding they earn through student success points and contact hour funding.

Student success points satisfy 10 percent of funding while contact hour funding accounts for 90 percent.

West illustrated the student success point model, which gives points to student accomplishments. The district receives one student success point when a student earns the first college credit in math, reading and writing or completes 15 credit hours or 30 credit hours.

The district receives two student success points when an associate degree is earned and 2.5 points when a STEM degree is earned.

The district decided to not charge dual credit students in 1989 when dual credit was first offered because legislative funding made up almost 80 percent of the budget, Fabianke said.

Now legislative funding contributes about 25 percent of the district’s budget and the rest of the budget is funded by tuition, grants and local taxes.

Fabianke said the dual credit programs are unsustainable under this current model if the district wants to expand.

“When dual credit students attend a regular college class for free, they are taking the slot of a student who would have paid for tuition,” Fabianke said. “We would like to see how ISDs receive their funding to better understand how we could share these costs.”

The district lost nearly $15 million in waived tuition fees through the dual credit program last year. Fabianke said that number will grow as more students enter the program.

The group discussed other successful models of financing dual credit programs in the region, which range from flat fees to full tuition price. Some best practice dual credit programs in South Texas community college systems qualify for federal and state grants so their programs are huge, Fabianke said.

Catherine Hoffman, dual credit liaison for Lytle ISD, said that when 54 students at her school tested college-ready and qualified for dual credit classes, only two enrolled because it cost $150. She said she paid for books out of her own pocket when four of her students could not afford them because Lytle ISD’s annual book budget for dual credit classes was used in one semester.

Fabianke is concerned that students might enroll in dual credit outside of their district if they know one district is free while another district charges.

If high school students could use financial aid, their Pell grant eligibility clock would begin ticking, posing more concerns for the final blueprint plan to cover, Fabianke said.

Ansboury said there is never going to be enough money to pay for everything and the district’s budgets will reflect the district’s priorities.

The task force decided that finance data specific to their ISD would provide better insight on what kind of shared costs could potentially be forged, which Ansboury said she will provide.

Fabianke said that the size of an independent school district will determine the amount of money they could potentially contribute to dual credit programs.

Denise Devora, associate program officer of STEM for Educate Texas, oversees the organization of the blueprint document that will be dispersed between this district and 15 service area superintendents.

She said they were not able to get to all agenda points because the conversations at the task force meetings were so robust.

Devora and her team will host a webinar April 14 for the task force to review and provide feedback on final touches and unattended topics that will be added to the blueprint document before the superintendent presentation May 9 at St. Philip’s College.

Those recommendations from superintendents and CFOs will be integrated into the dual credit blueprint and presented to Chancellor Bruce Leslie and vice chancellors, who will ultimately determine changes for fall 2017, Fabianke said.

She said the district is examining the benefits of accreditation with the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment.

The alliance works to ensure college courses taught by high school teachers are as rigorous as courses offered by the sponsoring college. It is the only accrediting body for concurrent enrollment partnerships and is dedicated to ensuring programs like dual credit adhere to high standards so students experience a seamless transition to college and teachers benefit from meaningful, ongoing professional development.

Fabianke said other states have already adopted this accreditation by choice or state mandate and she suspects it will become the standard in this state in less than five years.

Fabianke said about 10 percent of the students that qualify for dual credit in our service area actually pursue it, but that number is expected to grow by 72 percent from 8,884 students this year to 15,319 in 2025, according to the presentation by West.

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