Dual credit increases still plague Alamo Colleges’ budgets

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Zachary-Taylor Wright

Northwest Vista was the only college with net savings at the end of FY 2017.

By Zachary-Taylor Wright


The district experienced unexpected enrollment growth in fall 2017 that didn’t lead to incremental tuition revenue because of disproportionate tuition-exempt enrollment.

This prompted a $6.2 million budget amendment proposal and could lead to tuition increase and charging dual-credit students tuition.

The $6.2 million budget amendment proposal was presented to the board of trustees at the Dec. 5 Audit, Budget and Finance Committee meeting at Killen Center, which included a $4 million transfer from the fund balance, the district’s financial reserve, and $2.2 million in rollover from multi-year accounts, which include student success funds and student activity fee savings.

Rollover from multi-year accounts will be rolled over to the colleges and the fund balance transfer will be distributed between the colleges and district support operations.

In an interview after the committee meeting, Dr. Diane Snyder, vice chancellor for finance and administration, said it is uncommon for the board to pull from the fund balance two years in a row.

However, because the board agreed to pull $5 million from the fund balance during the FY 2017 budget process and didn’t spend it all, she felt better about requesting $4 million from the fund balance for FY 2018.

In an interview Dec. 6, chief budget Officer Shayne West clarified student activity fee savings are rolled over to their corresponding college accounts, meaning this college’s student activity fee savings are rolled over to this college’s fiscal year 2018 student activity fee.

By law, those funds are restricted to student activities.

According to a presentation from Snyder, the district experienced an unexpected 3.4 percent growth in headcount enrollment and a 4.2 percent growth in contact hours.

Snyder said tuition revenue is only up $1 million despite the unexpected enrollment increase because tuition-exempt enrollment is growing disproportionately to tuition-paying enrollment.

When District 2 trustee Denver McClendon asked Snyder how much tuition-exempt, dual-credit enrollment was costing the district, Snyder said she did not have that information with her and would present it to the board in February.

In an interview after the committee meeting, Snyder said about 14,000 dual-credit students are 100 percent tuition-exempt.

Tuition-exempt, dual-credit enrollment is costing the district about $30 million in tuition loss.

The board debated the prioritization of dual-credit students over native students at a special board meeting Oct. 7 at Palo Alto College, where Snyder warned that increasing tuition-waivered enrollment, lowering state appropriations and increasing maintenance and operation costs warrant a tuition increase.

The board describes students who enroll directly at one of the Alamo College as native.

Maintenance and operations costs will increase because of the Alamo Colleges’ expansion from the $450 million Capital Improvements Plan approved by voters in May.

During the special board meeting, Snyder said she was able to avoid promoting a tuition increase in the past because of consistent tax revenue increases, but the maintenance and operation cost increase will warrant raising tuition if the board does not raise the tax rate.

McClendon opposed a tuition increase at the October meeting and remained consistent in his opposition at the committee meeting Dec. 5, saying the current cost-share model with dual-credit high schools could hurt native students.

According to a Feb. 27 article from The Ranger, two board members urged the Texas Legislature to further compensate the district for dual-credit students during the Feb. 20 Audit, Budget and Finance Committee meeting.

District 6 trustee Gene Sprague, defended the tuition waiver by saying the Legislature would not appreciate the decreased dual-credit enrollment that would occur if the district began charging those students tuition.

In an interview after the Dec. 5 committee meeting, Snyder said there were multiple “levers” the board could move to accommodate the district’s growing costs and decreasing revenues, including expanding out-of-district enrollment, increasing international enrollment, increasing native-student tuition and instituting a partial tuition exemption for dual credit students.

Snyder said the international programs are advertising more, and the district’s expansion of Alamo Colleges Online could increase tuition revenues.

According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s FY 2017 online résumés for each Alamo College, the district charges 246.98 percent the peer group average for out-of-district tuition. The résumé states the district charges $7,170 in annual academic costs for out-of-district students taking 30 semester credit hours, where the peer group average is $2,903.


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