Chancellor of Lone Star College System

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Richard G. Carpenter serves as the chancellor of the Lone Star College System, which has eight campuses in the Greater Houston area. He took the position on Aug. 1, 2007 and is the third chancellor since the system's inception in 1972.

His work with community colleges extends long before he joined LSCS. Before coming to Texas, Carpenter served as president at colleges in Kentucky, Michigan, California and Alabama and as state director for Nevada's Community Colleges.

As chancellor of LSCS, Carpenter has helped the system become the fastest-growing community college in the country. When it comes to producing associate's degrees, LSCS ranks in the top 10 for colleges nationwide.

Carpenter also serves as a nationally elected board member for the American Association of Community Colleges, chair-elect for the Texas Association of Community Colleges and delegate for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

LSCS is the fastest growing community college in the nation. What would you attribute that growth to?

We are in a part of the country that is rapidly growing. We serve 11 school districts, all of which are growing. We get a natural bed of students who are coming out of those districts. There is an economic piece as well. A few years back, the state of Texas deregulated tuition for universities and it's been spiraling dramatically since that time. People have come to learn that we transfer students every year to universities all over the country—Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Colombia, Duke. With the escalating cost of tuition at universities, parents are beginning to learn that you can get a degree from Colombia and get the first two years at the community college where they don't even have to pay for a dorm.

As chair-elect of Texas Association of Community Colleges, can you speak to the legislative priorities of the community college across the state?

We have been pounding away year after year for formula funding, but you won't hear formula funding from us this year. It's all about student success and student success funding. We acknowledge that the state has some economic difficulties, and we want to be a party to helping resolve those difficulties. We plan to defer asking for some of the things we need with the understanding that, as the economy picks up, we can come back to them. One of the unbelievable things is, Lone Star became the fastest growing community college in the U.S. last year, which was also the first year in the history of Texas community colleges that the legislature provided no funding for growth. We're going to ask that we restore growth funds—not all at once, but over three sessions. We'll do the best we can with what we have, but we want to at least start on the track to rebuilding funding for the thousands of students that we're not funding right now.

Discuss the impact of LSCS' partnerships with universities.

The impact is dramatic. I've lived and worked all over the country, and I've been in institutions where the universities and community colleges competed. We don't realize in Houston how fortunate we are to have universities and community colleges that do things together—share costs, save taxpayers money and afford students bigger and better opportunities. You've got more partnerships taking place in higher education in the Houston market than I've seen anywhere in my career. At University Park, we have multiple colleges side by side with us. Our students can literally walk across the hall, take a class with U of H, then go down the hall and take one with A&M. Our relationship with Sam Houston [State University] is very strong. We're both doing more together than either of us could've done individually. I believe it's a model that ought to be looked at statewide. The legislature ought to incentivize this kind of thing.

Is there any timeline on when LSCS might open a campus in the Magnolia area?

We have had some discussions within the last year to purchase land in Magnolia because there's a keen interest in us locating there, but I'm not the one to make the recommendation. You'll see us come back out probably in May with another bond referendum. Community advisory groups from all over the district [will come] together and make a prioritized list. I know there's been discussion around Magnolia. I would expect the committee recommendation will include something in there for this referendum. Where it may be on the priority list, I don't know. I've personally been engaged with folks from Magnolia over land proposals.

Where would you like to see LSCS in five years?

We've had a real clear objective for three years, and it's not any different today than it was three years ago. We want to be viewed as the nation's premier community college. We want to be the one that the rest of the country looks at to model programs and activities. We want to be the one that takes the changing demographic and addresses its need and positions it to build the economic vitality and future of our state. We want to be the one to lead the student success initiative. We don't want to be a university. We enjoy tremendous support from the communities we serve. We want to give them the best in return.