You likely are aware that our Texas lawmakers just wrapped up the 84th legislative session. As we have done in previous sessions, ACC advocated for a number of issues on behalf of students, employees, and taxpayers. Some measures moved forward, others did not. I want to bring you up-to-date on some of the new legislation and let you know what happens next.
The Legislature voted to reduce appropriations to ACC by over $4 million, or almost 4.5 percent, for the 2016-17 biennium. We are disappointed in the result, but will continue our practice of solid, prudent financial management and look for ways to obtain additional funding.
Guns on campus
Lawmakers voted to require public universities and colleges to allow gun owners with concealed handgun licenses (must be at least 21 years old) to have concealed handguns in dorms, classrooms, and campus buildings. The law allows institutions to prohibit guns in certain campus areas and to create some gun policies appropriate to their environment.
The law takes effect August 1, 2016; however, community colleges have until August 1, 2017 to allow guns on campus. Open carry, which gives licensed gun owners the option of carrying a gun openly in a holster, will not be allowed on campuses.
Open carry, which gives licensed gun owners the option of carrying a gun openly in a holster, will not be allowed on campuses.
While ACC opposed legislation allowing guns on campus, we value the opportunity to have some control over how the law is applied and will consult with students, faculty, and staff to create reasonable rules that conform to the law, but ensure our students and employees feel safe in their surroundings.
Lawmakers voted to require community colleges to establish block scheduling for no fewer than five associate degree or certificate programs that have not previously been offered as block scheduled curricula. Colleges may petition the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for a limitation of the requirement upon successful demonstration of hardship resulting from the requirements. Colleges are required to provide an evaluation report to the governor and Legislature no later than November 1, 2018 on block scheduling. This section of the Education code expires August 1, 2019.
Service area changes
Lawmakers agreed to transfer Gillespie County from ACC’s service area to that of Central Texas College. Beginning with the fall semester, students taking courses at the Hill Country University Center in Fredericksburg will transition to CTC programs. Additionally, the Nixon-Smiley CISD in Gonzales County has been transferred to Victoria College’s service area. These moves make sense geographically and will help us use our resources more effectively.
Legislators introduced two bills that would have allowed community colleges to offer bachelor degrees in nursing. While neither advanced to a vote, the RN-to-BSN model is gaining momentum nationwide. We will continue to work to raise awareness about the value of giving our nursing students an affordable path to a bachelor’s degree.
We will continue to work to raise awareness about the value of giving our nursing students an affordable path to a bachelor’s degree.
Tuition rates for undocumented students
We are pleased that the current law regarding in-state tuition for undocumented students was not changed.
Common course numbering
ACC joined its community college peers in strongly advocating for a common course numbering system for the state’s public colleges and universities. We are disappointed that proposed legislation did not advance to a vote. We will continue to promote the value of requiring a common course numbering system to ease course transfer for our students.
Hazlewood exemption for dependents of military students
Texas’ Hazlewood Act waives tuition for military veterans and their dependents. In recent years the cost of Hazlewood benefits to colleges and universities statewide has risen significantly. Proposed legislation imposing stricter eligibility standards for dependents passed in the Senate and House, but did not advance through a conference committee.
The Legislature also continued funding for two statewide programs we participate in: the Virtual College of Texas housed at ACC and the New Mathways Program at the University of Texas at Austin Charles A. Dana Center. The Texas Innovative Adult Career Education grant also is housed at ACC where we are the grant administrator. ACC receives and administers this $5,000,000 direct appropriation.
In closing, we expect many of the proposals that did not pass in this session to be re-introduced in the 2017 session. Our Office of External Affairs, led by Dr. Molly Beth Malcolm, oversees ACC’s government relations and activities. You can view their website or contact their staff if you would like more information about legislative initiatives.
As always, thank you for your commitment to our students and our community.Back to Top