Howard College, TACC propose change in state funding formula

Rural community colleges — including Big Spring's Howard College — are advocating for a different method of state funding for the institutions.HC trustees will hear a report on efforts to tweak the state's funding formula when they hold their monthly meeting at 12:30 p.m. Monday in the student union building's Tumbleweed Room.The long-time formula for determining state aid to community colleges has centered almost exclusively on contact hours, the total number of hours students are physically in class or labs. The more contact hours a school generates, the more money it generally receives from the state.“But that formula fluctuates from year to year based on the availability of state funds,” Howard College President Dr. Cheryl Sparks said. “And those fluctuations affect smaller, rural colleges like Howard much more than community colleges located in urban areas.”Because of that factor, combined with increased calls from legislators to have at least part of state funding for colleges tied to an accountability system, Sparks and other officials with the Texas Association of Community Colleges recently presented a slightly different funding proposal to the Texas Legislature's Senate Finance Committee and House Appropriations Committee.TACC's proposal would break state funding to community colleges into three areas:• The number of contact hours the school generates.• “Core funding,” which would provide each community college with $500,000 annually, regardless of the number of contact hours generated.• Ten percent of a school's allocation would be based on how well it achieves performance benchmarks, such as how many students earn diplomas or certificates.“Ten percent of the community colleges in Texas generate 75 percent of the contact hours,” Sparks said. “This approach will provide smaller colleges with stability in funding while, at the same time, addressing the public's interest in accountability at institutions of higher learning.”In other business Monday, trustees will consider:• Reports on construction projects at the Big Spring and San Angelo campuses.• A report on preliminary enrollment and contact hours for the spring semester.• Award bids for security services and baseball field work.• Convene in executive session to consider donations, property matters and the board's annual evaluation of the college president.