Alamo Colleges’ dual credit enrollment has increased 42 percent since 2012.
By Alison Graef
Dr. Don Hudson, director of business performance, said the Alamo Colleges dual credit program provides high school students an early and affordable start in college at the Feb. 20 Audit, Budget and Finance Committee meeting at Killen Center.
Hudson said Alamo Colleges is one of four districts in Texas that waives all fees for both in- and out-of-district dual credit students.
Dual credit tuition waivers for Alamo Colleges fiscal year 2017 amounted to about $21.5 million.
Hudson said the small contributions individuals make through property taxes adds up to big differences for Alamo Colleges’ dual credit students.
“The burden of all the extra things that Alamo Colleges District is doing is really being shouldered by Bexar County residents,” Hudson said.
High school students who take dual credit courses are given a preview of what college will look like and, he said, are more likely to graduate college.
This gives students an opportunity to earn college credits at no cost and creates a culture of college attendance within families, he said.
“They are establishing a college-going culture as a family — they maybe have little brothers and sisters who will follow in their footsteps,” Hudson said.
Hudson said taxpayers who are parents of high school students especially benefit from dual credit programs. He said a student who takes 12 credit hours saves $1,000, which is about one-fifth of the cost of an Associate of Arts degree at an Alamo College.
Hudson said significant savings are seen when compared to a public or private university. For 12 credit hours, Hudson said public universities charge $3,300-$4,350 and private universities charge $14,000 and more.
Hudson showed a graph that indicated 20 percent of fall enrollment at Alamo Colleges was dual credit students, including early high school and academy students. The graph indicated Alamo Colleges dual credit enrollment has increased 42 percent since 2012.
He said the increase is partly because of changes in Texas legislation supporting dual credit and partly because of “the need to get those students to college earlier.”
Out of the 50 college districts in Texas, Alamo Colleges is one of four to waive tuition fees for all in- and out-of-district students, according to the Texas Association of Community Colleges’ “Local Revenue Survey FY 2018.”
Six districts charge dual credit students full tuition and fees, and 37 districts offer partial reduction.
Dr. Diane Snyder, vice chancellor for finance and administration, said the rapid rate of growth in dual credit enrolment will be to the program’s detriment if a new method of funding is not established.
District 8 trustee Clint Kingsbery asked Hudson if any particular model for dual credit tuition stuck out to him as a good one. Hudson said many colleges that have previously waved all tuition and fees have started charging dual credit students a reduced tuition.
“And that amount can be paid for by the school district or an outside entity, not necessarily by the student,” Hudson said. “That just makes it pretty even across the board.”
President Robert Vela said a sliding-scale model would be necessary if tuition was charged to Alamo Colleges dual credit students.
“Anything that we attempt to do will impact our most needy students and really will potentially close the door on those students,” Vela said. “Anything that we do across the board, without understanding these variations in our students, will hurt those students that really need it the most.”
Chancellor Bruce Leslie said higher education institutions are criticized for the “high cost of higher education,” but that Alamo Colleges is absorbing the cost in waivers.
District 5 trustee Roberto Zarate asked, “How can we convince them (the Texas Legislature) that something this good, that saves so much money, merits an investment on the part of the state in the community college system? It’s crystal clear that we are saving taxpayers beaucoups of money in a very critical area.”
Hudson said the best approach is to lay it out in simple, “elevator” terms to make it as clear as possible that dual credit benefits communities and is worth being supported at the state level.
District 6 trustee Gene Sprague said charging tuition to dual credit students would decrease the enrolment in dual credit, which is something he said the legislature would not want to happen.
“They know dual credit is a very favorable thing to the parents,” Sprague said. “Do they want to spend the money? No, they don’t, but I think there is an incentive there.”