Tarrant County College’s commitment to better prepare the future workforce aligns with new outcome-based funding

HB 8 alters Texas’ community college funding model to focus on performance measures

After years of foundational work to enhance student success, Tarrant County College (TCC) is well-positioned for policy changes that tie state funding to key learning outcomes.

Over the summer, Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law House Bill 8, a measure that redefines the methodology by which community colleges receive state funding. The overall intent of HB 8 is to enhance education opportunities for the future workforce, including individuals who previously did not have access to college due to an inability to pay.
Through the new law, the largest tranche of state funding is now based on performance. Colleges will receive funding for completion of any of the following outcomes:
• Credentials of value. This relates to the number of credentials — associate degrees, certificates, occupational skills awards, and institutional awards leading to licensure/certification — awarded by a community college.
• Credentials of value in high-demand fields. The law is written to encourage the completion of credentials in fields most critical for the Texas workforce.
• Transfer. This is defined as a student’s completion of at least 15 semester credit hours at a community college before transferring to a public university in Texas, or the completion of those hours while a student takes part in a structured co-enrollment program between a community college and university.
• Dual credit. The completion of 15 hours in a dual enrollment program, which allows high school students to earn college hours.

“In recent years, TCC has implemented strong support models for dual credit students as well as those enrolled in our early college high schools and Pathways in Technology or P-TECH high schools,” said Elva LeBlanc, Ph.D. “We have also set goals to increase the number of credentials we award and the number of students who successfully transfer by strengthening every aspect of their engagement with TCC”.

The College operates dual credit programs in partnership with regional public school districts. TCC also has early college high schools and P-TECH schools. Dual credit is typically offered for high school juniors and seniors, while early college high schools enable students to begin taking college-level classes as freshmen or sophomores. P-TECH schools are open-enrollment high schools and give students considered the least likely to attend college the opportunity to receive both a high school diploma and a credential and/or associate degree.

In addition to rewarding across-the-board outcomes, HB 8 provides for the allocation of additional funds for students who complete an outcome and meet eligibility for free or reduced lunch in a public school.

Furthermore, HB 8 implements the Financial Aid for Swift Transfer (FAST) program, which allows any participating public institution of higher education to receive an allocation of funding based on the number of eligible students who enroll in dual credit at no cost to them. Eligible students are those enrolled in high school in a school district or charter school, who qualify for free and reduced lunch, and who enroll in dual credit courses that lead to a credential or degree.

Previous action taken by the TCC Board of Trustees supports the College’s ability to secure funding under the new model. In August, the board voted to waive tuition for dual credit students, with a goal of enabling more high school students to earn credentials and be prepared for their next professional and educational steps.

This allows the college to participate in the FAST program and begin receiving the state reimbursements of $55 per credit hour for dual credit and early college high school students who are economically disadvantaged. TCC estimates that 60% of current dual enrollment students are economically disadvantaged. Under the change, the college will garner about $2.1 million less in tuition but will gain additional funding from the state for those students. “The College and its Board of Trustees see this as good policy to enhance credentials of the community’s emerging workforce,” said LeBlanc. TCC is in the process of reimbursing the dual credit students who are self-pay.

“Moving forward, we anticipate an increase in the number of high school students taking advantage of educational opportunities at TCC,” said LeBlanc. “The board’s decision to waive dual credit is a bold move that is beneficial to the entire community.”

Other opportunities for students in HB 8 include changes to the Texas Educational Opportunity Grants (TEOG). The law removes the existing prohibition against using PELL grants for the institutional match under TEOG requirements, ultimately allowing institutions to streamline their administrative processes for awarding these grants and have more flexibility with other funding sources.

“While the implementation of HB 8 is new, we as a College have long been focused on better preparing the state’s future workforce, particularly for high-demand careers,” said LeBlanc. “Our mission is to provide affordable and open access to quality teaching and learning, whatever the student’s educational pathway. The outcomes outlined in HB 8 are parallel to the goals we are already working toward at TCC, and it is exciting to see this codified on the state level.”

About Tarrant County College

Tarrant County College is one of the 20 largest higher education institutions in the United States and boasts the second-lowest tuition of Texas’ Top 10 community colleges. As a comprehensive two-year college with six campuses in Tarrant County, and online, TCC offers a wide range of opportunities for learners of all ages and backgrounds that include traditional programs, such as Associate of Arts or Associate of Applied Science degrees; workforce and economic development programs; technical and skilled trades programs; and customized training programs for area businesses and corporations. Students also may take advantage of Weekend College through which they can complete an associate degree in 18 months or less by attending class full-time through weekend and online classes.