TSTC West Texas’s purported “main” campus, TSTC Sweetwater, (the Abilene campus is breathing down its neck) has seen a major change in the composition of its student population. The time was that the majority of the Sweetwater campus’s students were full-timers, but that just isn’t so anymore. The chart below is based on data taken from the TSTC System Administration website. (The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board doesn’t maintain statistics on the individual TSTC West Texas campuses (Sweetwater, Abilene, Brownwood, and Breckenridge), at least not in a form that’s publicly available and that I can find.) The flip-flop between full-time and part-time students is remarkable:
The raw numbers for the chart above appear in the table below:
From fall 2000 through fall 2006 full-time students outnumbered part-time, and then fall 2007 changed it all and changed it rather dramatically with part-time students suddenly comprising just over 81% of the student population. Meanwhile, full-time students plunged to only 18.92% of the student population. They were barely over a minuscule 12% the following year. I don’t believe that sudden and extreme switch was an accident or coincidence because it has more or less sustained itself since fall 2007. I can only guess as to what caused this phenomenon. It sure didn’t happen at the other campuses. For example, TSTC Waco’s full-time students made up 73.33% of its student population in 2003. In 2012 Waco’s full-timers made up 74.42%.
One thing I can say is that full-time students are better for a college, at least financially. Besides taking more classes and, therefore, paying more tuition, full-time students pay for expensive dorm rooms. They buy meal plans at the campus cafeteria. They live on campus and spend their money on campus. Part-time students eat at home or someplace off-campus, drive to the campus for class (assuming their class isn’t online), and then go somewhere else to spend their money. Local money, money raised by the campuses through charges for dorms, food, snacks, books, and whatever else, has to be hurtin’ for certain at Sweetwater. That’s probably one of the reasons why so many nonappropriated fund (not funds appropriated by the state) employees were slated for layoffs at TSTC West Texas as a whole. Of course, the HUGE loss of students TSTC West Texas experienced, in terms of raw numbers, regardless of whether full- or part-time, had to be a big reason, too. In short, nonappropriated funding, local money, was on the receiving end of a double-whammy: many fewer students to spend money on campus, and a larger percentage of that smaller number of students were part-timers.
Finally, one last question concerning the flip-flop from a majority of full-time students to a majority of part-time students. TSTC West Texas, in its 2013 Accountability Report stated, “With the new funding formula, we are focusing on recruiting prospects who are looking for career changes and ultimate placement into their respective fields.” How does a majority of part-time students reflect that claim? I’m not sure. Except for the sometime student who wants to learn a little more about fixing his own car or how to make his blog’s website a little sharper, aren’t virtually all students at TSTC West Texas looking for career change and placement in the field they’re studying? That’s why people go to technical schools in the first place. Perhaps Chancellor Mike Reeser, who was president of TSTC West Texas when the flip-flop occurred, said it best in a Texas Tribune story titled “Tech College System to Link State Funds to Student Jobs.” In that 3/15/2012 story he said, ““We have no casual students. We have no students who go just to pick up a class or two. That’s what makes us uniquely suited to go to a 100 percent outcomes-based funding formula.”
I just don’t understand how the claim that the college is “focusing” could sustain this phenomenon.