(WACO, Texas) – When graduates walk across the stage at a Texas State Technical College graduation ceremony, they do more than receive an associate degree or certificate of completion. Once they start working and contributing to the Texas economy, TSTC gets paid. Once they start working, they help the college get paid by the Texas Legislature.
TSTC was the first higher education institution in the United States, and the only one in Texas, to adapt to using a returned-value funding model. This model calculates the economic value stemming from 5 years worth of graduate wages. This value is multiplied by a funding rate equaling the amount of state funding to be received in the state’s two-year budget cycle.
It all comes down to accountability and earned results.
“It is a sea change from what normal funding formulas are,” said Joe Arnold, TSTC’s deputy vice chancellor for Government Relations.
The funding formula concept was created in 2011 during the 82nd Texas Legislature, which recommended that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board work with TSTC to recognize graduates’ job placements and earnings. This idea differs from a traditional funding method using student enrollment.
The funding formula was implemented in 2013 during the 83rd Texas Legislature and set a five-year period for graduates’ unemployment insurance wage records to be tracked by the Texas Workforce Commission and used to calculate funding. Graduates working out of state are not counted in the funding formula.
“The funding formula aligns the college’s outcomes with the needs of the constituents it serves,” said Jonathan Hoekstra, TSTC’s executive vice chancellor and chief operating officer. “To maximize its funding opportunities, the college must mobilize the entire campus community to shape student experiences that maximize their future employability. This includes focusing programs on those that are in the highest demand amongst the employers of Texas.”
According to a presentation made by TSTC Chancellor and CEO Mike Reeser to the National Summit for Higher Education in December 2018, some of the benefits of the returned-value funding model include the state only paying when results are achieved and the college’s operational efficiency becoming even more critical to sustain.
The funding plan starts off in the base budgets of the state House of Representatives and Senate and during the legislative session, and eventually it ends up in the final budget signed by the governor.
“The problem we have is there are always new members coming in (to the Legislature) — this session, more so than normal,” Arnold said. “The number of new freshmen in the House and Senate is extremely high. We have lunch-and-learns and bring in committees and staff and our delegation members and explain the process and what we do and how TSTC operates and why we exist. Many of them do not know.”
TSTC uses program-vitality scorecards to monitor program success. Technical programs that have not met graduate placement and salary standards have been phased out in recent years. The college also uses internal scorecards to monitor year-to-year progress.
All of the college’s technical programs have advisory boards made up of industry representatives who give guidance on how to build curricula using what employers need from workers and how work is being done in the field. TSTC strives to offer the latest technology for students to use to become job-ready upon graduation.
The college looks at the workforce needs of the state.
The importance of plumbers was felt in winter 2021 as a major winter freeze affected all corners of Texas. As pipes froze and burst at apartments, homes and businesses, plumbers were in high demand for weeks after the winter weather to make costly repairs.
TSTC and the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners (TSBPE) united in early 2022 to open a testing facility for prospective plumbers at the Waco campus. The testing center can accommodate written and practical exams. The only other testing facility is in Austin with a third facility planned for TSTC’s Harlingen campus in the Rio Grande Valley.
“These new testing centers will double and eventually triple TSBPE’s ability to test applicants wishing to obtain a plumbing license,” Frank S. Denton, TSBPE board chair, said at the January 2022 ribbon cutting for the Waco testing site. “This is something that could not have been done without the cooperation and assistance of TSTC.”
TSTC offers a Money-Back Guarantee for students in select programs
TSTC’s programs that are in the Money-Back Guarantee initiative are Diesel Equipment Technology, Electrical Lineworker and Management Technology, Electrical Power and Controls, Industrial Systems, Instrumentation Technology, Precision Machining Technology, Process Operations Technology, Robotics and Industrial Controls Technology and Welding Technology.
Students in their first semester working on a certificate of completion or an associate degree in the programs and are eligible to work in the United States can talk to a campus Career Services representative to enroll in the program. Students can attend workshops geared toward their efforts that are presented by Career Services staff.
Students in Money-Back Guarantee programs who do not get jobs in their chosen field within six months of graduation are eligible for a refund of the tuition paid out of pocket. Lending agencies who handle student loans will be reimbursed.
For more information on TSTC, go to tstc.edu.