Weekly Update – May 30, 2010

on May 29, 2010 in Weekly Update

Happy Memorial Day Weekend to all of you and especially to our active military members and our veterans!!  You are appreciated more than you will ever know!!

I started last week off in Austin at a Joint Hearing with the Senate Committee on Education and the Senate Committee on Higher Education.  The purpose of the hearing was to hear testimonies on an interim charge or review related to dual credit courses.  Specific items under review are cost of delivery; funding mechanisms; the possibility of a statewide dual credit system; and the rigor, quality, and consistency of dual credit courses.  The hearing consisted of six panels with a total of 20 participants.

The hearing started out with several senators commenting on the need for academic equity and “fixing the system.” The first testimony provided a perspective on the role that community colleges play in the dual credit segment, which includes not only junior and senior offerings but also early college high schools (ECHS). More than 91 percent or 91,000 dual credit students are taught annually by community colleges and approximately 1,000 of these are enrolled in ECHS. Thirty one percent of dual credit students are economically disadvantaged, while over 50 percent of high school students are economically disadvantaged. Additionally, the trend lines indicate that more Hispanics and African Americans are taking dual credit courses.

 The testimonies were very supportive of dual credit programs, and all agreed on the importance of dual credit programs in creating pathways to universities. Most testimonies were focused on academic dual credit programs, but there were a few references to technical dual credit programs. The focus for the day was on rigor, quality, consistency, and how to make dual credit more effective and efficient.  There was also considerable discussion regarding competition, distance learning options, support services, and funding. There appeared to be agreement that, from an overall perspective, dual credit in Texas is a successful model.

Additional hearings will be held throughout the summer and early fall, and I intend to make sure that we are included in these discussions. Dual credit is an important and emerging segment for San Jacinto College with more than 1,650 juniors and seniors and over 325 ECHS students enrolled during the fall and spring semesters.

Moving on to other news at the State level, we received notification on Wednesday that the five percent cut is moving forward.  The next payments for this fiscal year from the State will be reduced.  For San Jacinto College (SJC) this amounts to a reduction of $1,944,175. This is disappointing especially considering that we have had double digit enrollment growth in addition to this cut. Luckily, we have experienced better than anticipated property tax collections for this year which will help us cover the State reduction (we budgeted property tax revenue conservatively due to concern over collections and the economic downturn). The next question is what will happen in 2010-2011? We are preparing for the same five percent reduction in general revenue from the State, plus a reduction in property tax revenues due to lower assessed values. Both of these will be monitored over the next month as we try to pull together budget projections.

On Tuesday we conducted a workshop on crisis communications. We brought in Cindy Lawson, a speaker who performs training for multiple professional groups and government agencies. She has also worked in higher education for more than 30 years and led us through a presentation to get us thinking about our vulnerabilities as a college and how crisis communications fit into the overall Emergency Operations Plan (EOP), which is developed and managed by the College Safety Office.  Teri Fowle will be putting together a team of volunteers from across the College to draft a crisis communications plan to be used in conjunction with the EOP. As the team assembles and creates a draft of the plan, I will give you an update.

Our enrollment numbers for this mini session are in, and we have experienced an increase of 2.1 percent with 1762 students enrolled.  As you know, these students are having an intensive fast track session, and they are probably in need of some encouragement and that extra little push. Please continue to stay focused on assisting and supporting those students.

Finally, I couldn’t end this update without wishing our San Jac Baseball Team lots of luck. San Jacinto College arrived in Grand Junction, Colorado, for the 2010 JUCO WORLD SERIES. The report is that they are fired up and ready to capture the national title. Channel 11 News in Grand Junction was there to greet the team and interview some of our players.  The reporter referred to the team as “the older statesman,” with 18 previous trips to Grand Junction. We are ranked #1 in the nation. Click on the link to view the video of the San Jac baseball team rolling into Grand Junction.  The link is www.nbc11news.com. Click on SPORTS and then go to SAN JAC – ALL ACCESS and play the video.

Have a great holiday week-end and be sure to thank a current or past member of the armed services!

Best,

BH

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