COMMENTARY by STEPHEN B. KINSLOW
Recently, an unprecedented five communities put annexation into the Austin Community College taxing district on the ballot. We would like to take a moment to thank the voters who gave the issue thoughtful consideration, and we applaud the community leaders who worked diligently to put annexation before voters.
As a result of the elections, Elgin ISD and Hays CISD are now full partners in the ACC District. We welcome Elgin, Buda, and Kyle residents and are gratified by the extraordinary vision they have for their communities.
Elgin and Hays voters’ investment in ACC will bring big dividends, effective immediately. All residents of these school districts will receive full in-district benefits, including a 72 percent drop in tuition—from $150 to $42 per credit hour. The college will expand its Early College Start program for families who value the opportunity for high school students to earn up to a year of free, transferable college credit. To better serve all area residents, ACC will open its first full-service campuses in Bastrop and Hays counties. Each campus will offer a comprehensive menu of programs and services, including extensive general education and academic transfer courses, critically needed workforce education in high-demand career fields, and foundation skills programs for the growing number of people who are not yet college-ready. We will break ground next year, with the new Hays and Elgin campuses set to open in fall 2013.
While we are disappointed residents of Bastrop ISD, McDade ISD, and San Marcos CISD voted not to join the district, the elections sparked important conversations about the future of higher education in the region. We are encouraged by the thousands of people who recognize the best way to turn the economy around is by building a stronger workforce through improved access to higher education and training. During hard times, it is education that will lift and improve lives and communities.
It is unfortunate that some opponents spread misinformation about ACC and the local community efforts to annex. They ignored or distorted facts and omitted context. They claimed ACC was in financial ruin when, actually, our S&P ratings were recently increased to AA- for combined fee revenue bonds and AA+ for general obligation bonds. In addition, the college was just honored for the seventh consecutive year with the highest form of recognition for governmental accounting and financial reporting. While some said ACC wanted your tax dollars only for Austin, the fact is that the new campuses will be funded entirely with tax revenue from the communities served, creating jobs as well as more affordable access to comprehensive programs and services. They claimed ACC has a dismal performance record, misrepresenting data and refusing to acknowledge the success of our transfer students and our highly valued workforce education students, who have some of the highest licensure pass rates in the state. Some even tried to circumvent the will of the people by attempting to get annexation taken off the ballot in Bastrop, though a judge refused to do so.
The truth is that ACC is a vital resource for promoting healthier communities. We are proud to serve as the primary gateway to higher education and workforce training for all of Central Texas. Most people now recognize community colleges’ unique contributions to growing the economy—producing the backbone of the local workforce and building a larger, stronger middle class. That benefits everyone. As the need for affordable, accessible higher education continues to grow, we will be here to serve you. ACC is your partner for the future. We invite you to watch our progress as we build two new, state-of-the-art college campuses for the communities of Elgin and Kyle/Buda at austincc.edu/elgin and austincc.edu/hays. Together we are laying the foundation to benefit generations to come.
STEPHEN B. KINSLOW is president and chief executive officer of the Austin Community College District.Email | Print