College officials pleased with new funding process

While Howard College officials are disappointed in not receiving more state money this year, they are celebrating a new funding process they believe will stabilize funding for the institution.Barring a last-minute change of heart from Gov. Rick Perry, state appropriations to the Howard County Junior College District will remain roughly the same as last year.The appropriation bill, which includes money for Texas colleges and universities, is awaiting Perry's signature. It includes slightly more than $7 million per year for Howard College and $2.65 million a year for SouthWest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf.“Howard College is receiving $10,000 less than last year, while SWCID will receive the same amount of money,” said Howard College President Dr. Cheryl Sparks. “So, as you can see, our state funding will remain essentially flat.”The good news on the state appropriations front is that state officials have adopted a new funding formula which Sparks believes will result in much-needed stability in how money is disbursed to colleges.In past years, state appropriations were almost entirely dependent on a college's contact hours (the time students were in classes or labs) — the more contact hours a college generated, the more state money it received.That formula was all fine and good when Howard experienced good enrollment years, but the college felt the pinch when student numbers decreased, Sparks said. For example, she pointed to figures which show that 43 of Texas' 50 community colleges — including Howard — are now experiencing declining contact hours.The new funding formula for community colleges is split into three parts:• Each community college will receive $500,000 a year in “core funding.” This figure will not fluctuate, Sparks noted.• Ninety percent of the remaining appropriation will be based on how many contact hours the college generates.• The remaining 10 percent of state money will be disbursed based on how well the college achieves certain “student success points.” The more students who achieve these milestones — which include factors such as how many semester hours they complete and whether they receive a certificate or degree for their coursework — the more state money the college will receive.