Texas community colleges: 10 awesome schools in the Lone Star State
by Aimee Hosler | March 12, 2013
Some say everything is bigger in Texas, and based on the size of its economy alone, that proverb is difficult to dispute: In 2011, The Economist reported that if Texas were its own nation, its GDP would rival all of Russia. According to the Lumina Foundation, if the Lone Star state -- which ranked 39th nationally in educational attainment in 2010 -- wants to keep up with workforce demand (and maintain its economic prowess), it needs to turn out more college-educated workers by the year 2025. Texas community colleges and the practical, career-ready skills they can provide may be a help in the critical part of this equation. These 10 notable Texas community colleges are doing their part.
Community colleges in Texas
- The Alamo Colleges: Founded in 1925, this San Antonio-area community college system -- one of the largest systems in the country -- consists of five campuses that, combined, serve more than 100,000 students annually and host more than 300 degree and certificate programs. Yet, even with these achievements, The Alamo Colleges take pride in their ability to maintain small, personal class sizes. It offers a plethora of intramural sports, student organizations and regular guest lecturers. Perhaps it is no wonder that its famous alumni include civic leaders, artists and entertainers, Challenger Astronaut Francis Scobee and even G. William Miller, former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and chair of the Federal Reserve. Like many other Texas community colleges featured on this list, AC also offers transfer agreements with a number of upper-division colleges throughout the state, which makes it easier to transition down the road.
- Amarillo College: Founded in 1929 in Amarillo, this two-year institution serves more than 11,000 credit students and an additional 25,000 non-credit students on six campuses across West Texas. As of 2013, Amarillo College offered nearly 150 degree and certificate programs. Programs vary by campus, as do facilities. The Washington Street Campus, for instance, features an art museum and a concert hall while the West Campus houses the Panhandle Regional Law Enforcement Academy.
- Austin Community College District: This Austin-centered community college system is among the fastest-growing in the country. According to its website, as of Fall 2011, ACC served more than 60,000 combined credit and non-credit students across eight campuses (with two more on the way) and a 7,000 square-mile service area. Not too shabby for an institution founded in 1973. Today, students can choose from more than 235 associate degree programs and know they are attending an institution that boasted a 43 percent 2011 transfer rate to upper-division colleges across the state (and beyond). These achievements combined with an institution's commitment to producing a more educated workforce earned it a prominent place in a 2009 Time Magazine article discussing the national economic importance of U.S. community colleges.
- Blinn College: Located in Brenham, but with campuses in nearby Bryan, Schulenburg and Sealy, Blinn College serves more than 18,000 students across 13 counties each year. It also boasts one of the state's best transfer rates among students who attend -- and eventually graduate from -- leading four-year institutions, thanks perhaps in part to its Transfer Enrollment at Texas A&M (TEAM) co-enrollment program that ensures automatic transfer to Texas A&M or Sam Houston State University for qualifying students. Founded in 1883, BC's famous alumni include Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, former NFL player Shane Nelson and at least two Olympic medalists. Students can earn associate degrees or certificates in a number of disciplines.
- Brookhaven College: This Dallas-area community college is part of the Dallas County Community College District, which is the largest undergraduate institution in the Lone Star State. It serves more than 20,000 combined credit and continuing education students, and offers a Core Curriculum that guarantees completed credits can be transferred to any public or private college in Texas. In addition to offering a number of associate degrees, certificates and continuing education units, Brookhaven College provides math and reading assistance to K-12 students. Perhaps it is this commitment to public service that helped it rank among the top 10 institutions on the 2008 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, beating out more than 600 institutions nationally.
- Collin College: Founded in 1986, Collin College -- located near the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan region -- is not your typical community college. Unlike most Texas community colleges, CC's recently-established Higher Education Center gives students access to a number of bachelor's, master's and even doctoral degrees through multiple upper-division universities, including Texas A&M University-Commerce and the University of Texas at Dallas. As of 2013, CC has produced at least three U.S. Professors of the Year and two Texas Professors of the Year, as acknowledged by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement and Support of Education. It serves more than 50,000 credit and continuing education students each year across several campuses (with more in development).
- San Jacinto College: If you are a history buff looking for a Texas community college, SJC -- surrounded by historical monuments -- should make your short list. Founded in 1961, this Houston-area college serves more than 30,000 students across three convenient locations. It offers more than 200 degree and certificate programs in a number of concentrations, including the high-demand science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) field. One of the school's most unique features may be its accelerated education program, which allows students to forgo the usual 16-week courses in favor of 12- or 8-week terms, depending on the program.
- Texarkana College: Located In the city of Texarkana -- right next to the Arkansas border (and not far from Oklahoma or Louisiana) -- this institution's motto assures it is "A Great Place to Start… Or Start Over." When it was founded in 1927, the campus was composed of a few classrooms, laboratories, offices and a gymnasium. Today, Texarkana College's 90-acre campus serves more than 5,000 students and features a two-acre nature reserve and a 360-acre educational farm near the piney woods. According to its website, TC offers a variety of associate degrees and certificates in disciplines like applied science, art, or science. It also maintains a robust continuing education program that includes instruction in areas like computer technology, gardening and even cooking. It also supports an active campus life through campus clubs, theater productions and other events.
- Midland College: Unlike many community colleges nationally, this Midland-based college offers students more than associate degrees and certificates, though it still maintains more than 50 of those. As a Level II institution, it is also accredited to offer a Bachelor of Applied Technology degree, and its students can earn additional upper-level degrees on campus from a number of four-year institutions. Founded in 1969, MC now serves more than 7,000 students each year and continues to attract new investments, which total more than $100 million since 1992 alone. These funds help MC maintain and expand its state-of-the-art classrooms, lecture halls and laboratories.
- Tyler Junior College: Serving more than 12,000 credit students and 20,000 continuing education enrollments a year, this Tyler-based institution is one of the largest community colleges in the state of Texas. Founded in 1926, TJC has morphed into a truly modern campus that offers nearly 80 associate degrees and 45 certificate programs in a diversity of disciplines. And though it remains a two-year institution, its unique campus offerings -- including athletics teams, an art museum, and even a high-tech science center complete with a planetarium -- provide students with a rich campus experience that can even rival those offered by big name four-year schools. Famous alumni include several politicians, a number of professional athletes and Emmy Award winning writer and director Allen R. Morris who used to perform on TJC's Tyler Civic Theatre.
Community colleges in Texas: serving the Lone Star State, and the nation, one student at a time.
These 10 awesome Texas community colleges give students access to a number of degree and associate programs -- including some upper-division degrees -- and can serve as a stepping stone to one of the state's notable four-year institutions. Some are acknowledged for their size or unique programs, others for their impressive alumni or faculty achievements. Yet all of them strive to improve Texans' access to higher education, professional development or personal enrichment.
“Comparing US states with countries: Stateside substitutes,” economist.com, 13 January 2011, The Economist Online. http://www.onlinecolleges.com/
“Texas,” luminafoundation.org. http://www.luminafoundation.org/state/Texas/
“Can Community Colleges Save the U.S. Economy,” content.time.com, 20 July 2009, Laura Fitzpatrick. http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1909623,00.html