The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

TCC prepares for less money from Austin


By Shelly Williams/editor-in-chief

Chancellor Erma Johnson Hadley and chief financial officer Mark McClendon agree TCC is “in pretty good shape” to withstand a proposed budget cut from the Texas Legislature.

The college could get $25 million less in state funding if the current version of the House’s bill passes or $20 million less if the current Senate bill passes.

“This board has the option of putting money into operations that we have previously used for other things like building a new campus, renovating NBSS on NE, building a new building on SE,” Hadley said. “And we’ll be looking for efficiencies where we can find them.”

This could come in the form of centralizing scheduling, adjusting the faculty-to-adjunct ratio or cutting back on the “wants” and carefully looking at the “needs” of TCC. These are a few options that administrators are considering, McClendon said.

TCC funds its big projects through a “pay-as-you-go” system, meaning it sets aside funds each year to pay for them rather than borrow. As a result, the college has relatively low debt, McClendon said. The college owes about $40 million in bonds, and the bonds are paid off through taxes. This forces TCC to look at the world from a “cash basis,” he said.

“We actually spend what we have, and we don’t indebt ourselves at all,” McClendon said. “That means we’re in a good position, but in rising times, we will have additional expenses.”

One way the college may handle those additional expenses will be through centralized scheduling and perhaps reducing the number of class sections.

Instead of having class sections scheduled by individual campuses, they would be scheduled in one central location.

“The students wouldn’t suffer under centralized scheduling any more than they suffer now,” Hadley said.

She said, for example, centralized scheduling would give a certain number of classes a chance to fill up.

If more sections are needed, they could be added.

“In fact, it may be better for them because they never would have the thought that they were going to get that class, that it would be there,” she said.

Another way TCC is considering moving expenses around is increasing the ratio of adjunct instructors to full-time faculty. McClendon and Hadley said this will be a benefit in cost and scale.

“If I have 30 faculty members in a department and, let’s say, we go to centralized scheduling and we’re able to serve the same number of students with significantly fewer sections, which means we’d need fewer instructors, what am I going to do with the others?” Hadley said.

Increasing the number of adjuncts would give TCC a chance to be more flexible, she said. More adjuncts would give the college an opportunity to get skills that full-time faculty might not be able to give, she said.

“If anything changes, it’ll be probably that the ratio of adjunct to full-time will increase a little bit,” Hadley said.

TCC also has plans to defer maintenance to non-emergency items and look at technological requirements.

“We’re going to move them where they make sense,” McClendon said. “If we go to Windows 2007, we’ll keep that for four years instead of changing it in two years. We won’t have all the bells and whistles, but we will get the programs that people need to work.”

Not everyone needs a high computing ability, so McClendon said the college would tighten its belt in the “wants” and “needs” area.

“You’re not going to be left out with the right equipment. It’s just you don’t need to have something unless you need to have it,” he said.

Since the new legislative session started, Hadley has visited Austin four times to hear discussions about budget cuts from Senate and House finance committees. She’s met with Tarrant County legislators and a subcommittee on education.

Hadley said she tells everyone the same story — the college is growing by leaps and bounds and more consideration for funding is needed.

“We’re not going to get it, you know, with a [state] budget shortfall of $20 billion. We don’t know what is for sure yet,” she said.

“Ultimately, I think the state is dead-set, pretty set on pushing the cost of community college funding primarily to the counties, the local taxpayers.”

Hadley said that if this happens, and if the board of trustees decides to get as much efficiency as possible, then raising tuition won’t happen anytime soon.

“It’s certainly not going to happen this year at all because the board does have money, and they can do what they want with it,” she said. “The board may decide they want to raise tuition before — I know they would raise tuition before they would deny access. But again, we’re in good shape really. You don’t have to worry.”

But if the state Legislature cuts funding to education at all levels, board of trustees member Louise Appleman said while it won’t affect TCC this budget year, the board will need to consider the future.

“We will need to think hard in future planning: increase fees and taxes; belt-tightening like new construction, remodeling and updating; larger enrollment per class; elimination of certain courses which don’t attract enough students — whatever it takes.”

Though McClendon and administrators said the college is in a good position, he said it doesn’t mean the college shouldn’t be cautious when it comes to budget cuts.

“A good position means we must be vigilant and we must put in strategies, but I think that we will be able to overcome the challenges,” he said.

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