Board questions enrollment, CIP and capacity

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District 6 trustee Gene Sprague and District 2 trustee Denver McClendon discuss the issues surrounding high-risk courses and the capital improvement plan set for a May election March 7 at Killen Center. “Are we ultilizing the capacity the colleges can actually hold? McClendon asked. “Don’t we have enough space? I understand future growth, but I am talking about at this point now.” “We need to be able to deliver an honest and simple answer, Sprague said. Photo by J. Del Valle

By Zachary-Taylor Wright

zwright9@student.alamo.edu

The board of trustees discussed the projected growth of this city over the next 20 years and how that growth influenced the Capital Improvement Plan at the Student Success Committee meeting March 7 at Killen Center.

At a Jan. 17 board meeting, the trustees approved a $450 million bond issue and placed it on the Bexar County election slate in May.

During the Student Success Committee meeting, District 2 trustee Denver McClendon asked the board about the capacity of the colleges’ facilities.

McClendon said the public thinks the district does not have the enrollment to meet capacity and questions the district’s proposal of several new buildings in the May bond issue.

Diane Snyder, vice chancellor for finance and administration, said she doesn’t have a “magic sum,” but financial services is trying to get together more information to accommodate McClendon’s request.

Snyder said the recommended construction projects are specialized spaces targeted toward filling local job market gaps.

Chancellor Bruce Leslie said the anticipated population growth over the next 20 years is “well and superior” to the current capacity of the district’s facilities, saying 1 million people are expected to settle in this city in the next 20 years.

Leslie said the capacity issue is complex, but the projected growth of the city is evidence the district needs to expand.

According to The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s 2017-2030 enrollment forecast, Alamo Community College District is expected to see an increase of 6,725 students between 2016 and 2030.

The enrollment forecast says the district’s preliminary enrollment numbers for 2016 were 59,467 and are projected to be 66,192 in 2030.

Leslie said he doesn’t think the public would have an interest in seeing the “building-by-building data.”

Leslie said the culinary arts center at St. Philip’s College is an example of the need to construct new facilities, saying the building is at capacity.

Leslie said the building next to culinary arts may not be at capacity, but other facilities at St. Philip’s do not have the proper equipment to accommodate the culinary arts program.

McClendon said the public thinks there is enough space at the colleges to accommodate the projected city growth and said the board should work on formulating an educated answer to the public’s speculation.

District 6 trustee Gene Sprague said the board needs to develop an honest and serious answer to the public’s concerns, saying he can’t present the raw data to the public and expect them to understand.

Sprague said at least one of the colleges is at capacity and enrollment would grow if the opportunities at the college were expanded.

Sprague added the bond issue would increase the quality of programs and education at the colleges.

Sprague said the board needs to develop a simple message the public can understand explaining the positive impact expected of the bond issue.

District 3 trustee Anna Bustamante questioned the board’s reference to capacity, saying the colleges are empty in the evening.

Leslie said the colleges’ capacity is typically referred to under the parameters of Monday through Thursday during the normal hour window.

In an interview with The Ranger March 21, Leslie said normal hour windows are the times when most students are at the colleges — from 8 a.m. to noon and from 3 to 5 p.m.; however, he said these numbers vary by college and building, saying capacity is difficult to define.

Leslie said Fridays are dedicated to college and administrative meetings on campus because average enrollment was low on Friday.

The low enrollment followed district urging the colleges to create a scheduling system with few Friday classes.

In an effort to explain why campuses may not be at capacity in the late afternoon, Leslie said evening classes tend to be specialized, such as continuing education courses.

This college offers about 215 evening classes, defined as primarily after 5 p.m., this semester; however, the majority of them are core-required classes.

Sprague said the district had 63,000 students five years ago and was able to accommodate the capacity. He said any one familiar with data analysis would question the need for new buildings if enrollment is down.

Sprague said the public is aware of the city’s projected growth, but the board’s message to the public should address the needs of the community today rather than focusing on needs in 10 years.

District 5 trustee Roberto Zarate questioned the enrollment numbers the board uses to gauge capacity.

Zarate said the board previously agreed there are 88,000 students enrolled but now said there are 59,402 students enrolled.

The 88,000 figure is the duplicated enrollment number, which counts students for each of the Alamo Colleges they attend, online students and early college enrollment students.

McClendon said the 11,000 dual credit students, represented in the 59,402 enrollment figure, are not on campus, which means there are actually 48,000 students on the college campuses, saying this is another number the public can “throw at them” when questioning the bond issue.

Zarate said the board needs to obtain consistent information to present to the public and said an inconsistent message is not a good one.

District 8 trustee Clint Kingsbery said the public needs to understand that the bond issue doesn’t only address the growing population.

Kingsbery said the bond issue requests the expansion of programs on each campus and the construction of facilities at regional campuses, which he said serve the needs of the people in those communities.

District 1 trustee Joe Alderete said the focus on capacity is an incomplete question and references to the bond issue should include the housing and accrediting requirements for each program.

“It’s not just, ‘Hey, our student population goes up and down,’” Alderete said. “Of course, it goes up and down. We can’t pinpoint and pull out one portion of a question. That would be naive.”

McClendon said people tend to think of the capacity of the colleges as they would the capacity of an elementary school.

“‘We can handle X number of students all day in 15 classes,’” McClendon said, projecting the mindset of the public. “‘If we have X above that, then we have a problem.’ People try to compare that scenario to us, which does not fit.”

McClendon said the board should address concerns about the relationship between capacity and enrollment by presenting an approximation of the capacity of the colleges.

Leslie said the enrollment information provided to the board was intended to show the district’s and colleges’ progress and should be reviewed separately from the bond issue.

Leslie said the administration has struggled with counting enrollment figures, saying it is difficult to determine who should be counted in the figures and how often to collect data.

District 9 trustee Jim Rindfuss expressed concern for discussing the bond issue, saying he has yet to see any projections from a demographer explaining what districts will see the most increase in population.

Rindfuss said St. Philip’s and this college had room for more students when the district began constructing Northwest Vista College, which has now reached capacity.

Rindfuss said Northeast Lakeview is going to reach maximum capacity soon.

According to an information technology services update presented at the Jan. 10 board committee meeting, Northeast Lakeview had 3,163 enrolled students this semester by Jan. 4.

In an interview March 21, Leslie said Northeast Lakeview College was designed for 7,000 students.

Rindfuss said the other colleges have not been able to reach capacity and questioned if the district would construct facilities in the neighborhoods that will see the highest population growth.

Rindfuss said the public needs to know where the facilities are being built to form an opinion on the use of public funds.

The last day to register to vote is April 6.

Early voting begins April 24 and ends May 2.

Election day is May 6.

For more information, call the Bexar County Elections Department at 210-335-8683.

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