Understanding HB 8: Building community colleges’ capacity

This is the second installment in the Texas 2036 blog series on House Bill 8, this legislative session’s main effort at overhauling the funding formulas for the state’s community colleges.

In an earlier blog, we described in detail the new dynamic funding formulas and how they focus on growth of students’ outcomes and alignment with state and regional workforce needs.

In this blog, we continue our overview of HB 8 to cover improvements in community colleges’ capacity to meet the demands of Texas students and employers.

Workforce-aligned grants building college capacity

Due to variances in colleges’ access to local revenues through property taxes and tuition and fees, some community colleges face limitations in providing workforce-aligned courses. This includes apprenticeships, employer-sponsored training opportunities, and technical courses requiring specialized equipment or learning sites.

Students’ ZIP codes can have an impact on their ability to obtain a postsecondary education that prepares them for a good-paying, in-demand job. As seen in the chart breaking down the funding available to each of the state’s community colleges, several institutions do not have access to either total or per-student funding levels that are relatively equivalent to their peers.

HB 8 blog explainer series community college funding

A push for innovation and collaboration

To accelerate the alignment of community colleges’ course offerings with workforce demands, HB 8 features several initiatives that build community college capacity. The state appropriated $33 million for innovation and collaboration efforts, portions of which will help continue the Texas Reskilling and Upskilling through Education program.

TRUE grants help community colleges start or expand short-term credential programs aligned with regional and statewide workforce needs. They serve students ranging from young, first-time-in-college students to those already in the workforce.

Since the inception of the TRUE program in 2021, colleges have used the funds to establish programs such as advanced manufacturing mechatronics, automation and construction management certificates, and patient care technician certifications.

In addition, the funds will assist in the creation of an institutional collaboration center at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. This center will help colleges collaborate, share resources with each other and community partners, and acquire resources at competitive prices with the assistance of the state.

For example, multiple community college districts in contiguous rural counties may determine an online course for a short-term coding certificate has value for their communities. Rather than each district establishing an individual online course, they can work with the collaboration center to establish a single online course available to students across their districts. This leads to a more efficient approach to providing students with equitable access to courses aligned with high-demand fields.

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