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Yesterday, in a post titled “Tech Colleges’ Annual Unduplicated Student Headcount thru FY 2013,” I tripped across a rather startling discovery: TSTC Waco’s headcount had dropped over 45% since FY 2010.  Accordingly, it’s time to drill down and look at that drop a little more. Today, I’ll be examining technical student (as opposed to academic) enrollment across fall semesters. The following image is the result of an interactive query I made on the Texas Higher Education Accountability website:

Lamars and TSTCs Technical Students 2009-2013

Lamars and TSTCs Technical Students 2009-2013

Once again, the Lamars remained fairly steady over time. The Lamar Institute of Technology’s fall 2013 count reflects a drop of a couple of hundred students since fall 2009, but its 2013 count is still an uptick from fall 2012. All’s relatively well on the Lamar side of the fence.

For the most part, things aren’t so bad on the TSTC side of the fence, either. Marshall’s count has dropped significantly from FY 2009, but its FY 2013 count is an uptick from FY 2012, so it looks to me like it is recovering. Even the troubled TSTC college in West Texas has a count on the rise again. And Harlingen? It’s technical student count has jumped over 600 students since fall 2009 and almost 600 from fall 2012 to fall 2013 alone.  Again those are technical students, so Harlingen’s droves of academic students aren’t affecting this particular comparison. The bottom line is that 3 of the 4 TSTC colleges experienced increased fall semester enrollment in 2013.

Then there’s TSTC Waco. Its for-credit, technical student, fall semester count since FY 2009 has done nothing but drop, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Click on the image below to enlarge a chart based on the data obtained from the interactive query and image discussed above:

Chart Lamars and TSTCs Technical Student Fall Enrollment 2009-2013

Chart Lamars and TSTCs Technical Student Fall Enrollment 2009-2013

As the chart above demonstrates, everybody had their ups and downs, but most aren’t horribly far from where they started in fall 2009, the period of this comparison. On the other hand, TSTC Harlingen and TSTC Waco really stand out here. TSTC Harlingen’s rising technical student line is heading upward toward TSTC Waco’s falling line. That’s not bad for a campus that once had less than half the technical students of Waco. (Is there a new TSTC flagship campus in the system’s future?) From fall 2009 to fall 2010 and fall 2010 to fall 2011, Waco lost a few students, but relatively few in comparison to the much larger losses going from fall 2011 to fall 2012 and fall 2012 to fall 2013. It will be interesting to see what fall 2014 numbers look like at Waco and if this disturbing trend continues. Taking a page out of the playbook at TSTC West Texas, Waco officials might or might not try to point at the new Returned Value Funding Model as the reason for these drops, but the other three TSTC colleges’ numbers, even West Texas’s, were on the rise in 2013, and they’re on the new funding model, too. Something else, I suspect, is afoot here.  I just don’t know what yet.

The analysis will continue.

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