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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

TCC students rally in capital for change

Approximately 1,500 students from Texas community colleges gather at the state Capitol to bring awareness to the importance of the community colleges and to visit legislators.  Photo by Martina Treviño/The Collegian
Approximately 1,500 students from Texas community colleges gather at the state Capitol to bring awareness to the importance of the community colleges and to visit legislators. Photo by Martina Treviño/The Collegian

By Charity Montieth/managing editor

Approximately 1,500 students from Texas community colleges gather at the state Capitol to bring awareness to the importance of the community colleges and to visit legislators.  Photo by Martina Treviño/The Collegian
Approximately 1,500 students from Texas community colleges gather at the state Capitol to bring awareness to the importance of the community colleges and to visit legislators. Photo by Martina Treviño/The Collegian

An estimated 1,500 community college students gathered at the Texas Capitol Feb. 22 to raise awareness on issues facing college students such as funding, financial aid and textbook regulation.

TCC students and administrators from all four campuses joined other Texas community colleges for Community College Day at the Capitol.

Students were welcomed on the Capitol steps by State Representatives Geannie Morrison (R-Victoria), Dan Branch (R-Dallas) and Mike Villareal (D-San Antonio) among others who rallied them to become actively involved in the political process.

“ There are many of you here, but you represent so many other students that are not here,” Morrison said. “Be advocates for them, [legislators] want to hear your needs as a community college student.”

After the rally, students were dismissed to explore the Capitol and observe House proceedings, where a special resolution was read honoring Community College Day.

The visit gave students the opportunity to learn about current legislative actions and meet with legislators to voice their concerns.

This year in conjunction with the Texas Community College Association, Texas Community College Teachers Association and TCC are backing the New Community College Compact With Texas. The compact calls for community college funding from the state to increase to 100 percent minus income from tuition and fees based on a formula that calculates the actual cost of instruction. Community colleges are funded at 52 percent under the current compact, which was written in the 1960s.

The proposal would call for local taxpayers to build and maintain facilities. The cost of education, including equipment, faculty salaries, library materials, administrative costs and student services would be paid by the state, minus the college’s income from tuition, Bill Lace, TCC’s executive assistant to the chancellor and trip coordinator, said.

“ The plan, if funded, would mean an extra $34 million to TCC over the next two years,” he said.

TCC officials and students also urged the Legislature not only to increase funding for financial aid, but to broaden financial aid so that the programs would take into account realities that face community college students.

Gov. Perry recently recommended that a majority of financial aid students be shifted to the “B-on-time” program and the Tuition Assistance Grant. Both programs are designed primarily for full-time students and place an emphasis on completing a degree quickly. The plans do not consider that many community college students are non-traditional students with families and jobs.

“ Our state’s financial aid system should reward, not penalize hard-working students who must juggle family and employment obligations while trying to get an education,” Lace said.

Students were encouraged to voice their own concerns to lawmakers. A chief concern for many was the cost of textbooks.

“ We are paying more for textbooks than we are for tuition,” Jennifer Stickles, NE Campus student, said to Richard McPike, chief of staff for Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Fort Worth).

McPike pointed to House Bill 956 as a possible solution. The bill calls for reducing the cost of textbooks, eliminating unnecessary bundles and requiring all editions of textbooks to be in print for at least three years unless technological advances require a newer edition. Additionally, colleges would be required to post textbook listings online and bookstores’ return policies would become more flexible.

Alicia Lemons, SE Campus student, spoke with Rep. Bill Zedler (R-Arlington) about funding and financial aid for community colleges. As a non-traditional student with children, Lemons said she does not qualify for a Pell grant or most other financial aid packages.

“ We have to compete with students that come straight from high school, yet [non-traditional students] cannot get many of the same benefit packages,” she said.

Lemons said that rising tuition costs were another concern she addressed, pointing out that the Legislature has cut oreliminated programs such as the Texas Tomorrow Fund that would ease costs for students.

“ As a mom, I feel like I’m stuck in the middle,” she said. “By the time my kids get to college the cost is going to be crazy.”

Students were scheduled to meet in small groups with their senator or representative, but few legislators were in their offices at the time of the appointments. Most students were able to speak only with a staff member, but some did not get to speak with anyone.

Larissa Moore, NW Campus student who went to speak about financial aid and scholarships, was scheduled to meet with Rep. Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth).

“ He somehow locked himself out of his office,” she said. “He told me he would be right back. But when he came back 45 minutes later, he just checked the door and left without saying anything.”

Although the experience frustrated Moore, she said it also motivated her to follow up with Geren.

“ I’ve already called my dad and had him look up every e-mail address and phone number he can find,” she said.

Kendrick Webster, South Campus student, was also scheduled to meet with Geren.

“ We came down here to talk about our experiences as students, and it felt like no one was here to listen,” he said. “The experience really opened my eyes.”

Webster also plans to follow up with Geren and said the missed visit did not ruin his trip.

“ The trip was a great experience. I think everyone enjoyed it,” he said. “It just shows us how important it is to stay in touch with our state representatives.”

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