Following the conclusion of Texas’ 86th Legislature in May, Lone Star College System has secured additional Hurricane Harvey recovery funds and is expanding its program offerings thanks to three key bills, Chancellor Steve Head said. The community college system has campuses across the Greater Houston area, including the LSC-University Park campus near Hwy. 249 and Louetta Road.
In late July, the college system received $13.1 million from Senate Bill 500, which allocated money from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to help pay for the $44 million in damages LSCS incurred from Hurricane Harvey, Head said.
“We are repaying ourselves for the money that we already spent,” Head said. “We were the only community college [in the state] to receive money for facilities damage.”
Through HB 3165, sponsored by Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress, LSCS was also approved accreditation for its lifePATH program, which is directed toward students with cognitive learning disabilities. LSCS currently offers a noncredit lifePATH program at its Tomball and Montgomery campuses, but Head said the accredited program will be expanded to all of its campuses following a pilot that will likely begin in January 2020.
“We’re trying to help these students be self-sufficient,” Head said. “We would be working with employers to try to place these students in jobs where they have interest … and where people can work with them and be patient with them.”
LSCS will also expand its degree choices following the passage of HB 3601, which recognizes competency-based education degree plans for members of Texas military forces. Competency-based education focuses more on students’ understanding of material rather than classroom hours, Head said. He said LSCS is considering creating a new competency-based program in military emergency management that would also potentially roll out in spring 2020.
“The whole idea is to have a better educated [military and] more career opportunities in the Texas military,” Head said.
Reflecting on the legislative session, Head said there were two bills he wished had passed but did not, which related to expanding dual-credit opportunities and giving school districts the ability to partner with community colleges of their choice. Head said he expects these topics will be introduced again in the next legislative session.
“We are in favor of expansion of dual credit,” he said. “[And] we believe that ... people ought to be able to take classes wherever they want to.”