Outcomes-based funding at Texas community colleges has received plenty of attention, but another experiment is underway for the Texas State Technical College System. Funding for TSTC will be determined by the amount of income earned by students after completion.
The issue is explored in a recent piece by Reeve Hamilton in the Texas Tribune. Included in the article is an astounding bit of information regarding TSTC–West Texas:
In 2007, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, more than 10,500 students were taking classes through TSTC West Texas, which has campuses in Brownwood, Abilene, Breckenridge and Sweetwater. Five years later, the school’s enrollment was about 1,500.
But George Reamy, a former conflict resolution coordinator for the TSTC System who maintains a website dedicated to monitoring the state’s technical schools, is not convinced that the new model is driving the enrollment decrease. “I’ve just never seen a campus die like this before,” he said.
Enrollment declines these days are typically ascribed to the boom in the energy industry, which has lured many potential students away from local community colleges. But authorities believe the drop is due to a number of factors, and just comes at a time when the TSTC system is implementing the new funding model.
Here is how it works:
Under the new “value-added accountability funding formula,” as [TSTC Chancellor] Reeser called it, the earnings of students who attended the college for at least nine credit hours will be tracked using Texas Workforce Commission data — as long as they remain in the state. The difference between their income after five years and the minimum wage will be considered value added by their education.
The economic benefit of the wage earners’ tax bracket and buying power to the state will be calculated and used by the coordinating board to determine the level of financing for the school.
No one is suggesting that the model should be used at all colleges and universities.
“We have a unique mission and a unique structure,” Reeser said. “That allowed us to do this unique formula. What we do is not appropriate for the other two-year sector schools, and it’s not appropriate for the universities.
“You would never have another poet if you used this at a university.”