Community College Finance Simulator User Guide

Project Overview

Texas 2036 has developed an online, public higher education finance simulator that will allow Texas to identify how funding to two-year community colleges are allocated and what the impacts of potential changes to current policies might be. The development of this tool coincides with the convening of the state’s Commission on Community College Finance, as established by 87(R) Senate Bill 1230. 

This tool is intended to support the Texas Commission on Community College Finance, Texas community colleges, and other stakeholders in investigating policy solutions that strengthen and sustain the state’s community college finance system while highlighting the importance of students’ outcomes. As the Commission’s discussions unfold, Texas 2036 aims to be able to be responsive to any policy adjustments discussed, and rapidly offer insight on potential financial impacts.

Simulator Tool Capabilities

The current capabilities of the current  version include:

  • Displays that include all funding sources—state appropriations, tuition and fee revenues*, and local tax dollars—for Texas community colleges in static and trend formats including statewide totals and individual institutional data. All current elements include these capabilities unless otherwise noted.
  • Modeling of the existing Texas community college finance formula—Core Operations, Success Points, and Contact Hours.
  • Changing the total amount of state appropriations for community colleges within existing legal and budgetary structures.
  • Changing the allocation for Core Operations.
  • Changing the rate for Contact Hours.
  • Changing the rate for existing Success Points.
  • Increasing, decreasing, deleting, or adjusting the allocation to existing Semester Credit Hours (SCH) milestones for Success Point metrics (e.g., completely removing the metric rewarding completion of 15 SCH and reallocating those dollars to the completion of 30 SCH).

*Tuition and fee revenues are inclusive of state and local tuition waivers described in the Texas Education Code.

Navigating the Tool

State Budget Information

At the top of the simulator tool page, you can see the “bottom line,” or how any adjustments made to the state’s funding formula impacts the state budget for FY 2022. 

  • State Budget: The first figure (set to $916,653,595 by default), is the total amount of state funding provided to community colleges. 
    • Users can adjust the budget up and down by whole percentages by clicking the up and down arrows to the right of the state budget amount. Users can see how increasing or decreasing this amount impacts the state deficit or surplus.
  • Formula Cost: After making modifications to the formula, users can see the impact on the overall cost of the state funding formula in the middle figure (more information is below on how to make these adjustments and see their impacts). 
  • Deficit/Surplus: On the right, users can see how adjustments to the various components of the funding formula compare to the set state budget amount.

Formula Inputs

In this version of the tool, the primary way to make modifications to community college funding is by modifying the three components of the state’s existing funding formula: Contact Hours, Success Points, and Core Funding. More information on each of these three components of the funding formula is available in the overview.

  • Success Points: Users can adjust the amount provided to college districts for achieving certain outcomes under the Success Points formula. Users are able to adjust both the overall per success point rate for the Success Points formula, as well as the weight for each of the 11 individual Success Point metrics. Users are also able to set a weight for Academically and/or Economically Disadvantaged students. More information about the definition of Academically and Economically Disadvantaged as well as how the weight for these students interacts with the formula is in this section below.
    • More information about this model and each of the metrics is available here
  • Contact Hours: The overall contact hours accumulated by community colleges are funded at varying percentages measured against total costs for those contact hours. Users can adjust this percentage, which is set at .2019 (20.19%) by default. Users are also able to set a weight for Academically and/or Economically Disadvantaged students. More information about the definition of Academically and Economically Disadvantaged as well as how the weight for these students interacts with the formula is in this section below.
    • More information about Contact Hours is available here.
  • Core Funding: Before Success Points and Contact Hours are allocated, the Texas legislature provides all 50 campuses with a certain dollar amount, called Core Funding. Users can adjust this amount, which is set at $680,406 by default.
  • Academically and Economically Disadvantaged Students: For both the Contact Hours and Success Points formulas, users are able to set a weight for Academically and/or Economically Disadvantaged students. Academically Disadvantaged Students are defined as “students without an exemption to the Texas Success Initiative Assessment (TSIA) and not meeting college readiness standards as measured by TSIA mathematics, reading, and writing assessments.” Economically Disadvantaged Students are defined as “students receiving a Federal Pell Grant.” 
    • Each individual college district has a designated percentage of Academically and Disadvantaged students served, which are calculated by dividing the number of credit hours taken by the respective student population by the total number of credit hours taken at each college district. 
    • The Contact Hours and/or Success Points appropriation for Academically and/or Economically Disadvantaged students is calculated by taking the total revenue from the chosen formula for a college district and multiplying it by that district’s respective percentage of Academically or Economically Disadvantaged students served, the product of which is then multiplied by the user’s desired weight for Academically or Economically Disadvantaged students. The final product is added to the total revenue from the chosen formula before the weight is applied. 
      • For example, for a district with Contact Hours revenue totaling $10 million and a 10% Economically Disadvantaged student population, assigning a 25% weight to Economically Disadvantaged students in the Contact Hour formula would result in the following calculation:
        $10 million Contact Hours revenue X 10% Economically Disadvantaged student population X 25% Economically Disadvantaged student weight = $250,000 additional Contact Hours revenue for economically disadvantaged students. The $250,000 is then added to the $10 million in Contact Hours revenue, bringing the district’s total Contact Hours revenue to $10.25 million.

Click the “Refresh” button to revert any modifications back to the defaults. 

Formula Output Visualizations

After adjustments are made to the State Formula Inputs, users can see how that impacts individual college districts, and compare across districts, using three visualizations in the middle of the simulator tool: a scatterplot, map, and pie chart.

Users can delete figures by clicking the three dots (𝌀) in the upper right corner of the visualization they wish to delete. Click “Delete Figure” to remove the visualization from the screen. Users can customize the visualizations they would like on the screen by clicking on the plus sign button to create a new figure. Click this button to add another data visualization. Select “Statewide” to add a scatterplot, bar graph, or map, or “District” to add a pie chart graphic.

On devices with smaller screens, such as tablets, users may only see a scatterplot and map, with a plus sign button on the right to create a new figure. Click this button to add a third data visualization and follow the same steps for customizing the visualizations on the screen.

Scatterplot

  • The scatterplot graph allows users to show the relationship across college districts between two data sets in the tool, with an array of data from which to choose, including different sources of revenue, enrollment, and different components of the state funding formula.
  • Click the three dots (𝌀) in the upper right corner of the visualization to choose variables to show on both the x- and y-axes, categorize the districts by size and region, and have the size of the bubbles on the graph align with district size. 
  • Mouse over the bubbles to see the corresponding name of the district and its data for each of the selected axes. 

Map

  • The map visualization allows users to see the same indicators/variables as the scatterplot, reflected so that each college district’s location in Texas is aligned with their service area. 
  • Click the three dots (𝌀) in the upper right corner of the visualization to choose variables to be reflected for each college district relative to where their service area is located in Texas, choose the desired scale (Quantiles = Equal number of districts assigned to each grouping; Quantize = Equal data intervals between minimum and maximum data points), and select the number of divisions for the selected scale.
  • Mouse over each college district to see the corresponding name of the district and its data for the selected variable.

Pie Chart

  • The pie chart shows the amounts of revenue at individual college districts for each component of the “three-legged stool” for revenue: state funding, tuition and fees, and ad valorem taxes.  
  • Click the three dots (𝌀) in the upper right corner of the visualization to choose individual districts to view and switch between projected revenue and FY 2022 revenue.

Bar graph

  • The bar graph visualization allows users to see the same indicators/variables for each campus as the scatterplot, where the height of the bar correlates to the variable selected for the y-axis, and the data sorts by the variable selected for the x-axis.  
  • Click the three dots (𝌀) in the upper right corner of the visualization to choose variables to show on both the x- and y-axes and categorize the districts by size and region.
  • Mouse over the bars to see the corresponding name of the district and its data for each of the selected axes. 

Data Table

At the bottom of the simulator tool page, users can clearly see both how the current funding formula as well as any modifications impact individual schools according to all indicators available in the tool using the data table at the bottom. 

Users can select and group which indicators they would like to review by selecting them in the dropdown box, and then deselecting them by clicking the “x” next to each indicator in the dropdown box. Users can see the indicators for individual districts by selecting them in the “Filter By District” dropdown, and then deselecting them by clicking the “x” next to each district’s name in the dropdown box. Indicators available in the data table mirror those available to view in the visualizations above.

Download and Additional Resources

At the top of the screen, there are three buttons for users to access and download resources related to the tool:

  • Download allows users to download the data as currently seen on the tool for each college district in a .csv file format. In other words, any modifications made to the formula will appear for each district in the downloaded data. 
  • Sources points users to links to all publicly available data sources used in the tool.
  • Help provides a brief set of user instructions for navigating the tool. 

On smaller monitors or tablets, these buttons may appear as icons: a downward arrow for Download, a book for Sources, and question mark for Help.