The Austin Community College District (ACC) Board of Trustees held its regular meeting Monday, June 7. The college provided an update on the recent budget study, details about proposed homestead exemptions, and the issuance of maintenance tax notes to fund renovations around the District. Below are highlights from the meeting.
ACC Chancellor, Dr. Richard Rhodes, updated Trustees on the success of the 2021 legislative session. A bill is on the governor’s desk to allow ACC to offer up to five bachelor's degrees. Currently, the college is authorized by the state to offer up to three bachelor’s degrees. A bill also passed that allows qualified continuing education courses offered by community colleges to count toward credit for a certificate or associate degree. These courses will now get measured in the metrics for student success points for community college funding.
Dr. Rhodes also provided updates on:
Career Scholars: ACC celebrates near-perfect persistent rates for the new all-inclusive scholarship program to help cover the costs of college, ACC’s Career Scholars program. Career Scholars covers the cost of tuition and fees at ACC — up to $5,000 over three years — and includes personalized support services to help guide students all the way from enrollment through completion and into a promising, high-demand career. Registration is open for the fall cohort, which will double in size.
Annual ACC Fact Book: The annual fact book is out. It includes data about enrollments, information about the characteristics of our student population, degrees and awards at ACC, dual credit opportunities, continuing education programs, and more. Click here to view the factbook.
2021 Community College Innovation Challenge: A group of ACC students are finalists for the 2021 Community College Innovation Challenge. The Visual Communications students in the User Experience (UX) program developed a project called OASIS which analyzes data from smart wearable devices like body cameras to help understand reactions during a crisis. Read more about the project here.
Austin Art League Scholarships: A group of ACC Studio Art students also received recognition for their work. The Austin Art League presented each student with a $1,000 scholarship. The students were selected based on work they submitted to the 45th Annual ACC Student Art Exhibition. ACC is acquiring some of these pieces. They'll be on display at the Art Department’s permanent collection.
Texas Transfer Advisory Committee: Dr. Gaye Lynn Scott, ACC’s Associate Vice President of Academic Transfer Programs, was appointed to the Texas Transfer Advisory Committee. It’s the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s statewide team to guide the implementation of new transfer rules that will ultimately help community college students across the state transfer more seamlessly to public four-year universities.
NSF Distinguished Bioeconomy Lecture Series: InnovateBIO, the National Biotechnology Education Center at Austin Community College, participated in the National Science Foundation Distinguished Bioeconomy Lecture Series in May. Dr. Linnea Fletcher was one of the invited panelists. Highlights of the presentation included a description of how ACC combines economic development with education using the ACC Bioscience Incubator as an example.
National Biotech Industry Advisory Board: ACC Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, Larry Davis, presented on how ACC is working with industry partners in the biotech space to establish an equitable path for students to meet their career goals.
Open Educational Resources Webinars: ACC Provost, Dr. Charles Cook, presented data that show since launching our OER program in fall 2017, ACC has saved students $8.7 million in textbook costs. The college also has reported higher grades and term-to-term persistence for participating students. The series was hosted by the Coordinating Board.
FY 2021-2022 Budget Study
The board received an update as discussions continued on the FY 2022 budget process. Dr. Rhodes is asking Trustees to consider a four percent raise for eligible employees, which would be well above the current average for city and state entities. Several items will impact the budget, including Texas Retirement System contribution increases, new facilities at Highland Campus and Rio Grande Campus coming online, and increased operating expenses.
Senior/Disabled Homestead Exemption
Trustees unanimously approved a freeze on property tax homestead exemption for senior taxpayers and homeowners with disabilities. In addition to the $5,000 homestead exemption to all residential taxpayers, ACC increased its Senior/Disabled homestead exemption by $16,000 to $180,000. The freeze means qualified homeowners will never have an increase from ACC, unless they make improvements to their property. A final decision on property tax rates will require public hearings and will not be adopted until September.
Tax Maintenance Notes
Three resolutions were approved to finance the issuance of ACC maintenance tax notes. The resolutions allow ACC to appoint underwriters, approve official statements, and authorize the issuance of notes not to exceed $85 million. The tax maintenance notes allow the college to use proceeds for maintenance repairs and would prevent a tax rate increase on future debt.
Pinnacle Campus Use for Oak Hill Parkway Project
The board passed a motion to grant the chancellor the authority to execute an agreement for the use of the Pinnacle Campus property as a staging and office site only for the Oak Hill Parkway project. The new TxDOT improvement project is happening near the campus along the ‘Y’ in Oak Hill. Per the motion, the agreement must include a communications plan with date and times, must not allow storage of hazardous materials, and must limit operations during overnight hours. It also DOES NOT include a cement batch plant on the property. Read more here.