A community college is a specific type of institution which offers two year courses as a post secondary education. They are also known as junior college, City College or technical college. These colleges offer diplomas, certificates, continuing education, distant education, adult education and associate degrees. After completing two year education, graduates can take admission in 4-year bachelor degree in a university or college.
Objectives of a community college:
The primary objectives of any community college are fulfilling local particular requirements, filling the gap of geographical inaccessibility from a senior college or university, to be able to provide vocational training, to pay off for financial constraints, to provide quality education to those students who are not able to get admission in a university. These are basic objectives of any community college. These basic objectives are fulfilled with the help of tax base and funding from state. There are three elements on which the funding of a community college depends upon. These are neighbouring control, community funding and lowest feasible cost to the student (Garza, 2000).
Funding has been one of the biggest issues to any community college. Due to high demand for educated workforce, everyone is trying to upgrade their education. For this purpose colleges have to cope with the changing technologies and with increasing students. (Cruz, 2002).
Houston community college system operates in Houston city and some areas in Jacinto city. There are many campuses in which a variety of courses are offered to the community. There are six regional campuses where more than 60,000 students are getting their education every semester.
There are number of different courses and variety of different diplomas is being offered in these colleges. The demand for skilful workers with quality education is so high that every employer sought after trained and well educated work force, that’s why higher education institutions are trying to meet the expectations and demands of economy (Cruz, 2002).
Organizational and Funding Structure:
The board of trustees is the governing body of HCC. The administration is headed by chancellor. There are vice chancellor for every department like information technology, academic affairs, finance and planning, government and external affairs and student success. Then there is general counsel, chief of staff, chief human resource officer and presidents of different colleges which come under HCCS.
Normally community colleges are located in the tax district, so is HCC. Financing of college is done through following:
- State requisition
- Federal requisition
- Local revenue
- Tuition and fees
- Private sources donation
Funds by state are distrusted through Coordinating Board. This board recommend a certain amount of funding for college according to its current needs. This board also provide equitable distribution of funds to different community colleges of Texas according to Texas legislature (Texas Higher Education, 2002).
Unlike the universities which are funded according to their enrolment, the cost of instruction in academic and vocation program is being calculated by coordinating board and then this cost is articulated in terms of dollars per contact hour. Whereas a contact hour is an hour spent in a class room or laboratory while receiving the instructions. 90% of funding is allocated in this way. The remaining 10% of funding by state is reserved for student success which is based on result versus input.
Tuition and fees also has become a major revenue source for community colleges. Same is the case with HCC. One of the main reasons is that the federal and state funds have become less available or has increased at a very slow rate (Leslie, 1980).
Comparison with other community colleges:
There are two other junior colleges in Houston which are Lone Star Community College and San Jacinto Community College. The total enrolment in Houston Community College is more than any other community college in Houston. There are more than 60,000 students enrolled in HCC. The most near enrolment is in the Lone Star community college which is almost 55,000. While there are almost 25,000 students enrolled in San Jacinto College. In comparison with others, it has low rate of white ethnic enrolment while there are more Hispanic students enrolled in this college. Also there is a variety of students enrolled which are African Americans, Asians, international and some others are included (THECB, 2011). These statistics show that there is a vast cultural diversity in the college as compared to the others. If we observe the participation in the term of gender, this college has almost 4,000 `female students out of 6700 are enrolled (THECB, 2011). Although Lone Star has more female students but still Houston Community College shows gender balance in student enrolment as compared to San Jacinto. All three colleges have more female faculty than male. Similarly if we observe statistics about success rate in maths, reading and writing, Houston Community College falls behind the Lone Star College.
If we talk about the distribution of financial aid among different students on the basis of ethnicity, we will find that Houston Community College is following a balance approach. In fall 2008 42% of financial aid went to African American students while Asian, Hispanic and Native American got the same percentage that is 25%. 13% went to the white students while 1% was allocated for international students. In comparison Lone star contributed 35% to their Hispanic students while all other did not get more than 18% each. Similarly San Jacinto College allocated 35% to their African American Students and remaining is distributed among others (THECB, 2011). Although these colleges spent more on African Americans and Hispanics, HCC spent more on other students than its counterpart. Moreover it preferred its female students spending almost 29% of financial aid as compared to 19% and 21% of Lone Star and San Jacinto respectively. According to Higher Education Commission Board, the pass rate of Houston students on national level is 94% while Lone star takes lead by getting 96%. San Jacinto lies behind by getting 84% pass rate. This shows that Houston will have to do something to improve quality of education to compete with its counterparts. In 2010 almost 5000 students completed the degree in Houston while 4000 and 3000 have completed their degrees in Lone Star and San Jacinto respectively. Most of these students were awarded associate degrees. The success rate of students in these colleges can be determined by finding out that how many students join the senior college after completing junior college. 41% Houston students were transferred to senior college in 2010 while Lone Star could make it to 25%. San Jacinto managed 21% of its enrolled students to be transferred in senior colleges. Now days the most wanted fields are engineering and computer sciences. Maths is also a core competence in the industry. Houston awarded 157 engineering associate degrees and certificates and 111 computer science associate degrees and certificates. But there is none in the field of maths and physical sciences. San Jacinto took the lead by awarding in maths and physical sciences along with engineering and computer sciences certificates. In Nursing Lone Star and San Jacinto took the lead by awarding 381 and 219 associate degrees, while 164 and 131 certificates respectively as compare to 209 and 58 respectively in HCC.
Another attribute to check out the success rate is employment rate after graduation. Perhaps it is one of the strongest attribute. In 2009 more than 500 HCC graduates were employed in academics while more than 1200 were employed in technical fields. Almost same is the case with Lone star but San Jacinto lies behind by having 300 academically employed and over 1000 technically employed (THECB, 2011). This shows a tough competition between these colleges as in industry choose graduates from all three colleges. Houston Community college is one of the leading community colleges in Texas but with the passage of time it is facing tough competition from other colleges in the town. It has to do a lot more better to take the lead.
A major challenge faced by Houston Community College is funding issue. After recession there is a large amount of workforce which has become unemployed. In result there is an increase in enrolment of students in HCC. Despite the fact that there are many new students who are willing to upgrade their education, the state fund for college has decreased about 7.5% (HCC, 2012). This creates a challenging situation for college as in they are trying to cope with more students with existing grants loans and funds. For a community college student there is another issue related to the education debt. There is just 10% of total grant is received by community colleges which is not sufficient as in the students are mostly from middle class community. Moreover, the burden on student in terms of fee and on community in the terms of taxes is increased due to less funding. This challenge is addressed by the administration by recommending fund expansion. A single amount allocated for community colleges is disbursed in fifty colleges due to which many students do not get the required cost to fund their education (Garza, 2000). HCC and other community college are the only type of higher education institution that depends on local taxes. HCC generates near one half of its revenue from local taxes while universities use less than five percent of local revenue (Layzell, 1997). So in terms of education cost, it is a big challenge for HCC to compete with other colleges and universities.
Another challenge faced by Houston Community College is growing use of technology. Students at HCC are enjoying more accessible services of college. College is developing its distance learning program online, connecting its campuses and providing wireless on campuses. HCC takes lead in doing so and have got an edge on other colleges.
Teaching itself has become more challenging than before. It does not confine itself to the traditional methods. Now students want choice in receiving course material. Also they prefer graphical high quality material. To fulfil these challenges HCC is putting course material online. Also for distance learning, there are lectures available on internet.
Complexity of student environment at college is being reduced due to use of technology. It has put converge network into action which brings data, voice and videos on a single platform. With this online system college has saved almost seven billion Dollars. Due to this technology the cost of paper, printing and storage is also reduced while the system has become more efficient.
HCC is considered to be in top rank among the other colleges of the state. But still there are many issues regarding student satisfaction and quality education which are faced by the college. It must take action to make its staff more responsive to the students enquiring for the funding policies. Also there must be good admission advisers which can help students to pursue a specific course to achieve their long term goals.
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Leslie, L. L. (1980). The Financial Prospects for Higher Education in the 1980's. The Journal of Higher Education , 1-18.
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