Weekly Update – July 11, 2010

on July 11, 2010 in Weekly Update

Hello San Jacinto College Community,

We are near the middle of July…can you believe it?  The Summer II session kicks off tomorrow and our enrollment is up for this second five weeks by 13.9%, and we are up 12.4% for the entire summer session.  I hope you all are hanging in there, and that this large population of summer students is excelling. To add some perspective to the percentages, let’s add some numbers to this. We have over 22,500 duplicated students enrolled this summer. Duplicated is an important term; it means each student could be taking more than one course within multiple parts of term. For example, 4,596 students are enrolled in the full summer 16-week session, 7,344 students were enrolled in the first 8-week summer session (Summer I), and 6,723 students are enrolled in the second 8-week session (Summer II). One student could be enrolled in each one of these three sessions so that one student would be counted as three enrollments.

For the second week in a row, I have great news about grant funding. San Jacinto College (SJC) received another $1.9M grant from the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) Skills Development Fund (SDF). The grant was written in partnership with East Harris County Manufacturer’s Association (EHCMA) and Lee College and will create 29 new jobs and 744 upgraded jobs in the petrochemical industry in the SJC / Lee College districts. In August 2009, a meeting was held at Lee College with the partners and representatives from 23 companies, who received a summary of the process and information needed to apply for a SDF grant. Those present were asked to provide a list of their companies’ training needs.  From that list, the colleges narrowed the list to the most-requested training, which was primarily in the areas of operations and maintenance. It is that list of training, refined by the colleges and the companies, that comprises the training proposed to TWC. Particularly encouraging in the current economic climate is the number of basic operator classes requested, which would focus primarily on recently hired workers. The other significant component of the requested training was in the area of leadership and management. With an entire generation of first- and second-line supervisors retiring, the companies want to train the next generation who will soon assume those roles. 

While this grant is focused on industry and large companies, SJC also received notification of a $200,000 award for the Skills for Small Business program. This grant is also through the TWC, in conjunction with Small Business Forums hosted by the Governor’s office. The program focuses on the more than 443,000 small businesses (those with less than 100 employees) in the State of Texas and specifically on the Governor’s six targeted Industry Clusters: Aerospace and Defense; Advanced Technologies and Manufacturing; Biotechnology and Life Science; Energy; Petroleum Refining and Chemical Products; and Information and Computer Technology.

Training through the program is designed to increase business competiveness, upgrade the skills of current employees, and prepare newly hired employees for the related job requirements.

On Thursday and Friday, I attended the summer conference of the Texas Association of Community College (TACC). Our agenda focused on developmental education, dual credit, e-Learning, and legislative priorities for 2011. The following paragraphs will provide a few highlights.

The developmental education session was led by Dr. Cynthia Ferrell with the Texas Developmental Education State Policy Initiative (remember last week I covered that she had visited with SJC as part of her work at the State). Dr. Ferrell referred to developmental education as an “urgent and hopeful issue,” and in her words, it is time to “unstick the log jam in developmental education.” She gave an example that in Texas, in a given year, 44,000 first-time-in-college students will begin developmental math; and three years later, 38,000 have not yet progressed to college-level math. In order move the jam, it requires our attention and investment in innovation and commitment in order to accelerate achievement.  We need broad engagement amongst stakeholders, in building a statewide culture of evidence, implementing changes to improve and bring to scale, and providing policy support. Her presentation included information from the Community College Research Center regarding the potential effects (both positive and negative) of developmental education. Additionally, colleges from Texas that have been asked to participate in the Bill and Melinda Gates Developmental Educational Project discussed lessons learned. These community colleges (Coastal Bend, El Paso, Houston, and South Texas) are not only being recognized by the Gates Foundation, but they are also recognized as “Achieving the Dream Leader Colleges.” To achieve Leader College status, an institution must have demonstrated commitment to and made progress on the four principles of Achieving the Dream: committed leadership, use of evidence to improve programs and services, broad engagement, and systemic institutional improvement. Plus, they must also have shown three years of sustained student success improvement. I was pleased to hear that much of the work that SJC is focusing on around our student success agenda was discussed by at least one or two of these institutions. The theme throughout the discussion was that it is time to “do something bold.”

On the topic of dual credit, there was much discussion about the work that is being conducted in this area by a variety of parties. TACC has conducted a survey of how the 50 community colleges are providing service in this area and what the results are. In addition, the State Auditor’s Office has conducted on-site reviews, Texas A&M has been asked to conduct a survey of independent school districts, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is preparing funding recommendations. In general, there is a great deal of attention being placed on dual credit, not only from these entities but also from universities and private institutions and organizations. The theme throughout this discussion was that it is important for each community college to continue to strengthen its relationships with their independent school districts and to ensure that dual credit offerings provide competitive types of courses, modalities and deliveries, support, and pricing. Interestingly from the TACC survey, it was reported that delivery of dual credit courses across the State of Texas occurred 42% at the college, 32% on line, and 26% at the high school.

Finally, on the topic of 2011 legislative session, there was nothing positive discussed.  Basically, this is going to be a very, very tough session. TACC will come forward with two legislative priorities. The first is to fund community college growth in the appropriations bill, and the second is to ask for the historical commitment of funding community college group healthcare insurance based on employee eligibility (many times you will hear this called proportionality). While these sound fairly straightforward, the dollars involved for growth are enormous, at an estimated $354 to $369 million dollars (the base funding year goes through February 2011 so the numbers are only estimates at this time) in a time of projected State deficits of $18 billion.

The membership discussed the need to move other items to the priority list or to have a B list, but the recommendation is to keep the focus on these two areas in order not to confuse the priorities for community colleges. While the 2011 legislative session will not officially kick off until January 11, 2011, there is much work that has already begun and will intensify over the fall months. These activities will include meetings with our legislators, both for San Jacinto College alone and with our peer colleges who share legislators with us. Additionally, our Board of Trustees, Foundation Board Members, and economic development partners will be asked to participate in these meetings. I will keep you posted on the legislative work by TACC and specifically what SJC is doing. As formal documents are received from TACC, I will forward those to you, also.

In closing, I want to refer to Dr. Ferrell’s message on developmental education. It is an “urgent and hopeful issue,” and we must “do something bold.” I believe that these two statements apply to many aspects of our work in education. Please take a few moments to reflect on how they apply to your work, your life, and our students.

Have a great week!! 



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