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Glenn Hegar
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Glenn Hegar
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Glenn Hegar
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

Texas Community Colleges:High Plains Region

Public community colleges serve a vital role in our state’s economy by training our workforce and preparing students for further academic study. Created specifically to expand access to higher education, they’re also notable for filling the specific educational and vocational needs of their service areas.

Regional Overview

The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts divides the state into 12 economic regions. The High Plains economic region — 41 counties covering about 39,500 square miles in northwest Texas — has four community college districts: Amarillo College, Clarendon College, Frank Phillips College and South Plains College. The region is home to about 873,000 people, or more than three percent of the state’s population.

Regional Economic Impact

In 2020, the Comptroller’s office requested financial data from Texas’ 50 community college districts and conducted statewide and regional studies of their economic impact. Our analysis predated the COVID-19 crisis and the economic impacts that followed. The High Plains region’s four community college districts reported revenues of $175.7 million in fiscal 2018, which produced an additional $83.7 million in indirect and induced economic activity for a total impact of $259.4 million annually. More than 2,500 jobs are supported by the region’s community college spending. Under normal economic conditions, every dollar spent by community colleges produces an additional 48 cents of economic activity, while every dollar spent on compensation produces an additional 21 cents of total income to the state economy (Exhibit 1).

Exhibit 1 Estimated Economic Impact of the High Plains Region’s Community Colleges, 2019

Estimated Economic Impact of the High Plains Region’s Community Colleges, 2019
Indicator Direct Indirect Induced Total Total Multiplier
Employment 2,080 87 402 2,570 1.24
Output $175.7 million $19.2 million $64.5 million $259.4 million 1.48
Compensation $113.6 million $4.3 million $19.4 million $137.3 million 1.21

Output refers to the intermediate and final economic values of goods and services. Induced impact refers to the jobs, sales/output and compensation created when new employees spend their wages at local establishments. Figures may not sum due to rounding.

Sources: JobsEQ, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and Texas community colleges


Our model represents a conservative estimate. Other studies, including one conducted by this agency in 2008 and another by Emsi in 2015, have applied a broader view of the economic ripple effects of a community college education and found considerably greater impact.

Employment and Wages

In general, the region’s restaurant industry, the health care professions and agricultural workers have seen the highest employment growth in the last five years. The number of the High Plains region’s extraction workers has declined over the past five years due in large part to the downturn in the oil and gas and petrochemical industries. Food preparation added nearly 3,000 jobs, while the region’s health care industry added almost 1,400 jobs.

The region’s most significant occupations are shown in Exhibits 2 and 3, first by location quotient (which measures an industry’s proportionate concentration in a region versus its concentration in the U.S. as a whole), and secondly by numeric growth during the last five years.

Exhibit 2 Top Occupations in the High Plains Region by Location Quotient, 2014 to 2019

Top Occupations in the High Plains Region by Location Quotient, 2014 to 2019
Occupation Number Employed Average Annual Wages LQ Number Unemployed Unemployment Rate Five-Year Employment Change
Extraction Workers 3,069 $44,200 5.21 139 4.4% -695
Agricultural Workers 10,668 $25,800 4.74 666 6.0% 1,072
Supervisors of Farming, Fishing, and Forestry Workers 559 $65,600 4.21 12 2.1% 77
Food Processing Workers 6,404 $27,800 3 189 2.9% 537
Rail Transportation Workers 624 $52,100 2.29 4 0.7% -91

Figures may not sum due to rounding. Data are as of Q3 2019 except for wage data, which represent covered employment in 2018.

Source: JobsEQ


Exhibit 3 Top Occupations in the High Plains Region by Numeric Growth, 2014-2019

Top Occupations in the High Plains Region by Numeric Growth, 2014-2019
Occupation Number Employed Average Annual Wages LQ Number Unemployed Unemployment Rate Five-Year Employment Change
Food and Beverage Serving Workers 22,581 $21,000 1.13 1,120 4.7% 2,740
Health Diagnosing and Treating Practitioners 14,502 $97,000 0.98 103 0.7% 1,366
Agricultural Workers 10,668 $25,800 4.74 666 6.0% 1,072
Cooks and Food Preparation Workers 9,035 $23,000 1.05 425 4.5% 728
Health Technologists and Technicians 9,079 $43,200 1.1 144 1.6% 641

Figures may not sum due to rounding. Data are as of Q3 2019 except wage data, which are for covered employment in 2018.

Source: JobsEQ


Wages by Educational Attainment

Community colleges deliver a particularly good return on investments of time and tuition. In the High Plains region, workers with some college or associate degrees and with stable jobs — defined as those employed with the same firm throughout a calendar quarter — earn an average of $3,539 more annually than high school graduates (Exhibit 4).

Exhibit 4 Average Annual Earnings by Educational Attainment, High Plains Region and Texas, 2018

Average Annual Earnings by Educational Attainment, High Plains Region and Texas, 2018
Educational Attainment Number Employed, Region Average Annual Earnings, Region Number Employed, Texas Average Annual Earnings, Texas
Less than high school 62,657 $39,622 2,065,483 $42,808
High school or equivalent, no college 91,273 $45,422 2,765,759 $52,035
Some college or associate degree 101,540 $48,961 3,245,675 $60,428
Bachelor’s degree or advanced degree 59,921 $65,629 2,454,975 $95,716
Educational attainment not available 54,224 $26,657 1,544,282 $22,087
Total 369,615 $47,557 12,076,174 $58,787

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau and JobsEQ


The increase in wages alone for those workers adds an additional $359.4 million in direct compensation to the state economy each year (Exhibit 5) — more than twice the total spending of the region’s community colleges.

Exhibit 5

Total Annual Regional Earnings Increase, Some College or Associate Degree versus High School or Equivalent, 2018

Employed, Some College or Associate Degree:

101,540

Average Earnings Increase Beyond High School or Equivalent:

$3,539

Total Regional Earnings Increase:

$359.4 million

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, JobsEQ and Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

The wage effect is particularly noteworthy given an average annual tuition for ACC of just $2,933 per year and the modest two-year educational commitment required for an associate degree.1 The highest-paying jobs for associate-degree holders in Texas are in the energy/utility, management, professional services, trade and manufacturing sectors.2

More Degrees Needed

While the region’s new graduates and certificate holders enter the workforce in large numbers, demand for some degrees still outpaces supply. Broadly speaking, these award gaps are largely in health professions, construction trades and engineering technologies.

The High Plains region’s community college districts awarded more than 1,100 certificates and associate degrees in health professions in the 2017-18 school year; the next most-common award areas were general studies and liberal arts, business administration and other trades (Exhibit 6).

Exhibit 6Top 10 Certificates and Degree Awards in the High Plains Region Community Colleges, 2017-18 School Year

Top 10 Certificates and Degree Awards in the High Plains Region Community Colleges, 2017-18 School Year
Certificates and Degrees Number Awarded
Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences 1,157
Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities 781
Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services 566
Personal and Culinary Services 310
Mechanic and Repair Technologies/Technicians 277
Security and Protective Services 243
Engineering Technologies/Technicians 195
Skilled Precision Production of Leather, Metal or Wood Products 191
Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services 189
Transportation and Materials Moving 142

Source: JobsEQ

High Plains Community College Overview

The High Plains region’s four community college districts provided technical and academic coursework for more than 22,000 students in the 2017-18 school year (Exhibit 7).

Exhibit 7 High Plains Region Community Colleges Overview, 2017-18 School Year

High Plains Region Community Colleges Overview, 2017-18 School Year
Community College District Enrollment Awards Average Tuition and Fees Academic Share of Students Enrolled Technical Share of Students Enrolled Enrolled or Employed, Academic* Enrolled or Employed, Technical*
Amarillo College 9,844 2,134 $2,670 60.7% 39.3% 91.4% 89.4%
Clarendon College 1,633 301 $3,030 62.4% 37.6% 96.1% 91.9%
Frank Phillips College 1,452 180 $2,966 82.4% 17.6% 94.9% 90.6%
South Plains College 9,279 1,520 $3,067 79.7% 20.3% 91.2% 94.6%

*The percentage of academic or technical graduates employed in the fourth quarter of the calendar year after graduation and/or enrolled in a Texas two- or four-year institution in the following fall after graduation, as specified.

Source: Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board

Amarillo College

  • In fiscal 2018, Amarillo College added $639.4 million in income to the Amarillo College service area economy, equal to about 3.7 percent of the region’s gross product.
  • Amarillo College’s impact supported 9,221 jobs or one out of every 22 jobs in the Amarillo College service area in fiscal 2018.
  • An analysis of fiscal 2018 showed students’ average annual rate of return for their investment in Amarillo College is 24.6 percent.
  • In response to local employer needs, Amarillo College built a full data science degree program and a data analytics continuing education certification.
  • Amarillo College runs a training program with Bell Helicopter to build the Osprey that has trained well over 1000 of their employees as of 2019.3

Clarendon College

  • To ensure its career and technical education programs provide relevant training, Clarendon College uses industry advisory committees for programs including welding technology, cosmetology, nail tech, heating and air conditioning, ranch and feedlot management, industrial maintenance, and allied health.4
  • Clarendon College’s ranch and feedlot operations program helps students gain new technical and management skills needed to cope with today's complex agricultural problems and start a successful ranch or feedlot career.5
  • Clarendon College's new Pathways Programs integrates ESL, GED, or development education classes into technical training classes to allow students to quickly gain the skills needed to launch a career.6

Frank Phillips College

  • Frank Phillips College (FPC) meets local industry needs through its Safety Center, which provides training for current and future employees of local businesses to reduce on-the-job fatal and nonfatal accidents.7
  • In response to the high need for nurses in the Panhandle, Amarillo College and FPC have created a rural nursing education consortium with four local hospital districts to provide a nursing program with the hospitals paying student tuition.8
  • FPC offers certificates in instrumentation, electrical, pump and engine, and process technology and has the largest training facility for petrochemical and refining operations in the Texas Panhandle.9

South Plains College

  • South Plains College (SPC) received a Skills Development Fund grant to provide enhanced skilled training, including heavy equipment and office workflow, for more than 200 employees of four participating manufacturers: Azteca Milling, J&B Industrial, Red River Commodities and Simflo.10
  • SPC’s automotive collision program provides a hands-on, self-paced learning experience to gain all the skills needed for a successful career in automotive repair.11
  • SPC’s Lubbock Coding Academy allows students with little or no coding experience to learn the fundamentals of computer programming and web development.12

Conclusion

Community colleges play a vital role for students and businesses by offering postsecondary education and job training at great value. As the High Plains region’s four community college districts work to address local skills gaps and meet the specific needs of area employers, they support nearly 2,600 jobs and add more than $259 million in economic output annually. Furthermore, the higher pay of those with some college or an associate degree helps raise total wages in the region by over $359 million per year.


End Notes

Links are correct at the time of publication. The Comptroller's office is not responsible for external websites.

  1. Calculated from data in Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, THECB Texas Public Higher Education 2019 Almanac, Spring 2019.
  2. Based on data provided by JobsEQ.
  3. Email communication from Russell Lowery-Hart, president, Amarillo College, December 19, 2019.
  4. Clarendon College, “Career and Technical Education.”
  5. Clarendon College, “Ranch and Feedlot Operations.”
  6. Clarendon College, “Cosmetology.”.
  7. Drew Powell, “FPC’s Safety Center Exploring More Training for Workforce,” ABC 7 News (October 14, 2019).
  8. Melissa Gaglione, “Rural Nursing Education Consortium Aims to Bring More Nurses to the Texas Panhandle,”  NewsChannel 10 KFDA (February 26, 2019).
  9. Frank Phillips College, “Frank Phillips College Workforce Programs.”.
  10. South Plains College, “Skills Development Fund Grant.”
  11. South Plains College, “Female Auto Collision Student Enjoys Rigors of the Program.”
  12. South Plains College, “SPC Lubbock Center to open Lubbock Coding Academy in February.”

Questions?

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