ACC administration fights funding cuts, capping enrollment

Mary Ellen Knewtson

Although a record high of more than 45,000 students enrolled at Austin Community College this spring, the college could have to place a cap on the number of students it accepts or raise tuition if the state Legislature cuts its funding.

Enrollment increased by about 10 percent to 45,056 students from spring 2010 to the current semester, according to an ACC press release.

The college’s president and CEO Stephen Kinslow said in a press release that the school’s growth is an opportunity to discuss problems that could be caused by a drastic budget reduction. According to the House budget bill, the Legislature could cut up to $767 million from community colleges.

“While demand continues to increase, we remain focused on student success and providing the critical programs needed to support economic growth throughout the region,” Kinslow said in the press release. “ACC and other community colleges are key to closing the educational gaps in Texas, which helps drive economic recovery. Reducing community college resources would be counterproductive to the state’s goals.”

Students 25 and older make up more than 44 percent of the college’s credit enrollment, according to ACC’s website. Kinslow said in the press release the two-year school is an important resource for displaced workers, updating their training in their careers.

“In recent years, we’ve seen significant increases in the number of students who come to us already holding a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or higher,” he said.

Raine Couillard, a French junior who transferred to UT from ACC Rio Grande in the fall, said despite ACC’s high enrollment figures, she enjoyed the intimate learning environment.

“I think [the cuts are] terrible,” she said. “UT can be very intimidating, and ACC was a nice, easy way for me to realize that I wanted to keep learning.”

Couillard said she began her two years at ACC not wanting to pursue further education, but during her second year she decided to apply to UT.

ACC student Jordy Wagoner spent two years as a journalism major at UT before transferring to ACC in the fall. She said she is taking advantage of the more approachable community college environment.

“UT cost me $4,000 a semester,” Wagoner said. “ACC is only $800 to $1,000 if you live in Austin. It’s pretty cheap.”
Transfers to UT from ACC decreased from 313 in 2009 to 298 in 2010, according to the Office of Information Management and Analysis.