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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:Statewide Overview

Public community colleges serve a vital role in our state’s economy by developing our workforce and preparing students for further academic study. Created specifically to expand access to higher education, the state’s 50 community college districts also play an important role by meeting the specific educational and vocational needs of their service areas (Exhibit 1).

Exhibit 1 Texas Community College Districts by Comptroller Region, Fall 2018

Texas Community College Districts by Comptroller Region, Fall 2018
Texas Comptroller Region Community College District Enrollment
Alamo Region Alamo Community College 60,818
Victoria College 3,827
Capital Region Austin Community College 38,362
Central Texas Region Blinn College 19,113
Central Texas College 9,976
Hill College 4,421
McLennan Community College 8,954
Temple College 4,910
Gulf Coast Region Alvin Community College 5,645
Brazosport College 4,304
College of the Mainland Community College 4,673
Galveston College 2,423
Houston Community College 48,309
Lee College 7,773
Lone Star College System 78,244
San Jacinto Community College 37,895
Wharton County Junior College 6,768
High Plains Region Amarillo College 9,844
Clarendon College 1,633
Frank Phillips College 1,452
South Plains College 9,279
Metroplex Region Collin County Community College 32,846
Dallas County Community College 80,627
Grayson College 4,284
Navarro College 8,463
North Central Texas College 10,171
Tarrant County College 56,941
Trinity Valley Community College 6,562
Weatherford College 6,284
Northwest Region Cisco College 3,358
North Central Texas College 10,171
Ranger College 2,399
Vernon College 3,055
Western Texas College 2,179
Southeast Region Angelina College 4,819
South Texas Region Coastal Bend College 4,633
Del Mar College 11,867
Laredo Community College 10,145
South Texas College 31,640
Southwest Texas Junior College 6,894
Texas Southmost College 7,130
Upper East Region Kilgore College 5,294
Northeast Texas Community College 3,090
Panola College 2,771
Paris Junior College 4,959
Texarkana College 4,234
Trinity Valley Community College 6,562
Tyler Junior College 10,019
Upper Rio Grande Region El Paso Community College 28,241
West Texas Region Howard County Junior College 4,510
Midland College 5,259
Odessa College 6,571

Sources: Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts and Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board


Accessibility

In fall 2017, 46 percent of Texas’ higher education students — about 700,000 — were enrolled in community colleges, more than any other type of institution of higher education (IHE). Community college coursework serves two basic purposes.

First, it can serve as a steppingstone to a bachelor’s degree; in 2017, 34 percent of four-year college graduates had transferred at least 30 credit hours from a community college. Secondly, community colleges play an important workforce development role, providing the skills and accreditation needed for specific occupations. Two-year IHEs (including community, technical and vocational colleges) awarded 93 percent of all Texas technical certificates and associate degrees in fiscal 2017.1 For many students, such options can provide a fast and cost-effective path to a rewarding career.

Affordability

Community colleges are much more affordable than other higher education options, particularly in Texas. In the 2017-18 school year, Texas’ two-year IHEs had the nation’s fourth-lowest tuition and fees, behind only California, New Mexico and Arizona (Exhibit 2), and averaging $2,209 per year compared to a U.S. average of $3,243. Texas’ four-year public IHEs, meanwhile, averaged $8,375 per year. The average student’s debt upon graduation from a community college is about half that of a student graduating from a four-year IHE.

Exhibit 2

Average Annual Tuition and Fees: Most Affordable Public Two-Year Institutions by State, 2017-18

Average Annual Tuition and Fees: Most Affordable Public Two-Year Institutions by State, 2017-18
JurisdictionAverage Annual Tuition and Fees
United States $3,243
Florida $2,506
Texas $2,209
Arizona $2,152
New Mexico $1,666
California $1,268

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

National Economic Impact of Community Colleges

In 2014, Emsi partnered with the American Association of Community Colleges to estimate the economic and investment impact of community colleges across the nation. It found that two-year IHEs added more than $800 billion to the U.S. economy in 2012, about 5.4 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product.

U.S. community college students can expect to receive an additional $4.80 in future earnings for every dollar they spend on tuition.2 And for every taxpayer dollar invested in community colleges, the public sector sees a return of $6.80, with a present value of more than $300 billion over the course of graduates’ careers. In all, community colleges’ benefits to society — including higher incomes and tax revenue, better health and well-being — are valued at more than $1.1 trillion.3

Community colleges typically focus on the needs of students and businesses in their geographic areas.4  According to a 2018 Emsi/Wall Street Journal study, the immediate community benefits most from graduates’ higher skills. The study found that community college graduates stay an average distance of 290 miles from the college, while 61 percent stay within 50 miles.

Statewide 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. In all, Texas’ districts reported revenues of more than $5.3 billion in fiscal 2018, which produced $4.5 billion in additional economic activity by businesses and households for a total output of more than $9.8 billion annually. Nearly 78,000 jobs are supported by the colleges’ spending. Under normal economic conditions, every dollar spent by community colleges produces an additional 86 cents of economic activity, while every dollar spent on compensation produces an additional 38 cents of total income to the state economy (Exhibit 3).

Exhibit 3 Estimated Economic Impact of Texas’ Public Community Colleges, 2019

Estimated Economic Impact of Texas’s Public Community Colleges, 2019
Indicator Direct Indirect Induced Total Total multiplier
Employment 57,437 7,355 12,946 77,738 1.35
Output $5.3 billion $2.0 billion $2.6 billion $9.8 billion 1.86
Compensation $3.4 billion $491 million $796 million $4.7 billion 1.38

Note: 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.

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


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 in Texas and found considerably greater impact.

Wages by Educational Attainment

By any measure of impact, however, community colleges deliver a good return on the investment of time and tuition. Workers in Texas with some college or associate degrees and with stable jobs (defined as those held with the same firm throughout a calendar quarter) earn an average of $8,393 more annually than high school graduates (Exhibit 4).

Exhibit 4 Average Annual Earnings by Educational Attainment, Texas, 2018

Average Annual Earnings by Educational Attainment, Texas, 2019
Educational Attainment Employed Average Annual Earnings
Less than high school 2,065,483 $42,808
High school or equivalent, no college 2,765,759 $52,035
Some college or associate degree 3,245,675 $60,428
Bachelor’s degree or advanced degree 2,454,975 $95,716
Educational attainment not available 1,544,282 $22,087
Total 12,076,174 $58,787

 Source: U.S. Census Bureau and JobsEQ


The increase in wages alone for those 3.2 million workers adds an additional $27.2 billion in direct compensation to the state economy each year (Exhibit 5) – more than five times the total spending of the state’s community colleges.

Exhibit 5

Total Annual Statewide Earnings Increase, Some College or Associate Degree Over High School or Equivalent, 2019

Employed, Some College or Associate Degree:

3,245,675

Average Earnings Increase Over High School or Equivalent:

$8,393

Total Statewide Earnings Increase:

$27.2 billion

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

This boost in wages is particularly notable given the average annual tuition of Texas community colleges of $2,209 and the modest two-year educational commitment required for an associate degree.5

The Future of Texas’ Community Colleges

The Texas Legislature has recognized the growing importance of community colleges, increasing the number of grants and other forms of financial support available to their students and allowing some two-year IHEs to offer certain bachelor’s degrees.6 Recently, lawmakers made it easier to transfer credits from a two-year to a four-year IHE and streamlined dual-credit programs by improving coordination between high schools and IHEs. 7

According to a 2012 study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Texas is experiencing a skills deficit, with companies across the state unable to hire enough skilled workers.8 Texas currently ranks 36th in educational attainment in the nation, with 43.5 percent of its 24- to 34-year-olds holding a degree or certificate, and just 38.9 percent holding an associate degree or higher. According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, at least 60 percent of the state population should hold a degree or certificate to ensure Texas remains competitive in the global market.9

During the 2017-18 academic year, the number of degrees and certificates awarded by Texas IHEs in Texas fell well short of market demand. The health professions, for example, faced a shortage of 19,626 Texas workers with two-year degrees and certificates compared to their needs (Exhibit 6).

Exhibit 6Largest Degree and Certificate Shortages in Texas by Industry, Academic Year 2017-18

Largest Degree and Certificate Shortages in Texas by Industry, Academic Year 2017-18
Job Sector Less than Two
Years of Training
Associate Degrees Bachelor’s Degrees Total
Education 1,315 1,264 86,084 88,663
Business, Management, Marketing and Related Support Services 12,689 4,614 16,641 33,944
Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences 13,541 6,085 6,613 26,238
Construction Trades 9,761 3,118 1,298 14,177
Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services 1,706 1,365 6,846 9,917

Source: JobsEQ


Community colleges can help to close these gaps by paying particular attention to the needs of the fast-changing economy and job market. Some colleges, for example, have established strong connections with regional employers to identify market needs and close skills gaps within their communities. According to JobsEQ, health care and business vocations dominate the list of degrees awarded by Texas community colleges, along with general studies and liberal arts associate degrees that provide students with a smooth transition to a four-year IHE (Exhibit 7).

Exhibit 7Top Certificates and Degrees in Texas Community Colleges, Academic Year 2017-18

Top Certificates and Degrees in Texas Community Colleges, Academic Year 2017-18
Certificates and Degrees Number Awarded
Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities 48,801
Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences 37,768
Business, Management, Marketing and Related Support Services 15,700
Personal and Culinary Services 10,914
Mechanic and Repair Technologies/Technicians 9,202

Source: JobsEQ


Conclusion

Spending by Texas’ 50 community college districts contributes billions of dollars to the state’s economic output and directly and indirectly supports thousands of jobs. Beyond this impact, however, our community colleges play an essential role in workforce development. They provide some Texas students with a low-cost opportunity to learn in-demand skills while preparing others for further education at a four-year university.


End Notes

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

  1. Texas Association of Community Colleges, “Texas Community Colleges Serve the State at Scale (PDF); and related explainer video.
  2. Emsi, Where Value Meets Values: The Economic Impact of Community Colleges (PDF), February 2014, p. 8.
  3. Emsi, Where Value Meets Values: The Economic Impact of Community Colleges, p. 9.
  4. Emsi, “How Your School Affects Where You Live.”
  5. Calculated from data in Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, THECB Texas Public Higher Education 2019 Almanac (PDF), Spring 2019.
  6. See Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Summary of Higher Education Legislation, 85th Texas Legislature, 2017.
  7. Riane Rolden, “New Law Makes It Easier for College Students to Avoid Taking Classes That Won’t Transfer,” Texas Tribune (August 26, 2019); and Texas Association of Community Colleges, “Relevant Bills Enacted by the 86th Texas Legislature,” (PDF) July 2019, pp. 3-4.
  8. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Strategic Plan: 2015–2030 (PDF)
  9. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, THECB Texas Public Higher Education 2019 Almanac, p. 7.

Questions?

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