Texas association to propose agenda at next legislative session

By Chris McGuinness

Killeen Daily Herald

As community college students across the state prepare to begin fall classes, the Texas Association of Community Colleges is laying out an agenda to bring to state legislators in early 2013.

The organization rolled out what it said was the most comprehensive set of goals for the next legislative session, which begins Jan. 8.

The campaign lays out five major legislative priority areas the association says will serve both the colleges it represents, as well as the students and communities.

"It's not just about going to legislators and asking for funding," said Steven Johnson, a spokesman for the association. "We are asking the state to partner with us to work toward policies that will ensure the success of the colleges and the students."

According to information from the association's website, the major points of emphasis of the campaign include:

Workforce and skills alignment

Measuring and funding success

College readiness

Transfer and articulation

Texans in community colleges

Those points each contain specific legislative recommendations, such as pushing for clear pathways between career and technicial programs at the high school and college levels, to universal paths to an associate degree and other degree programs through a statewide common core curricula. The process aims to make it easier for community college students to transfer to other institutions.

"It's a comprehensive package, and it addresses the broad range of services that community colleges offer," said Johnson. "It really encompasses everything we do."

The extensive campaign is a reflection of the growing role and importance of community colleges in Texas.

According to data from the association Texas Success website, the state's community college enrollment has grown by more than 300,000 students, or 70 percent, since the 2000 fiscal year. According to those statistics, the total number of degrees given out by community colleges has increased 107 percent within the same time period, and the number of transfer students coming from community colleges in the state has grown by 53 percent since the 2000 fiscal year.

Now that the association's priorities are laid out, the job of getting state legislators to listen and act on them begins.

"The work with legislators is already beginning, and we'll be going around discussing these priorities with them," Johnson said. "Like any set of legislative goals, there are some issues where there will be more consensus than others. That's part of the process."

Though Johnson declined to say what specific points of the plan may be tough to get legislative support for, he did say the campaign has already garnered a positive reaction from the state's High Education Coordinating Board.

The association presented its goals to the board Aug. 26, Johnson said.

"I think there is a recognition by that board that we need to work together, and then communicate our goals to policy makers," said Johnson. "All of the feedback we have gotten so far has been extremely positive."

Contact Chris McGuinness at chrism@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.

More information

For more information about the TACC's legislative plans, go to www.txsuccess.com.

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