Community Colleges Need to Return to Their Mission

Lynn Russo Whylly's picture

At the February meeting of the Lone Star College (LSC) Board of Trustees, the board voted unanimously to put a new $500 million bond issue on the May 11 ballot. This would increase LSC’s toal debt to over $1 billion. Most people have become accustomed to large debts run up by our elected officials and have become numb to the fiscal irresponsibility that lies behind the debt. It would be one thing had the debt been used to increase educational opportunities for the students, but indeed it has not. Rather, the money has gone to infrastructure expansion and administrative costs that do not warrant an additional burden on the tax payer or a debt that could affect the tuition rate of students and families who are already hard-pressed to cover costs.

Over the past six years the enrollment at LSC has increased by 89 percent to just over 77,000 students. Unfortunately the faculty has only increased by 11 percent, which has made the student to faculty ratio shift from 17:1 in 2006 to 29:1 in 2012. Education researchers are almost unanimous on the point that smaller class sizes improve student achievement and increase retention rates. Furthermore, between 2006 and 2012 spending directly related to student instruction decreased from 27 percent of total spending to 16 percent of total spending. This decrease in instruction spending and poorer faculty to student ratio occurred during the same time period in which LSC increased its debt by over 150 percent to $583 million.

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