1,500 rally for community colleges

Co-Executive Editor 

More than 1,500 students, faculty and administrators from community colleges around the state converged on the Capitol steps Tuesday hoping to grab lawmakers’ attention.

Hosted by the Texas Association of Community Colleges and the Texas Junior College Student Government Association during the legislative session, Community College Day is an opportunity for students to voice their concerns to local legislators and to learn about the legislative process.

KC sent a 10-member student delegation to take part in the effort.

“We are the voice of community colleges,” said Ross Costanzo, assistant director of student life. “Our voices were heard and it was an overall great experience.”

The 10 a.m. rally on the Capitol steps featured several speakers, including an opening statement from Dr. Bill Holda, KC president and board chairman of the Texas Association of Community Colleges. Students were also able to observe proceedings in the Senate chamber and travel door-to-door to speak with lawmakers and their staffs before being treated to lunch on the Capitol lawn.

“A lot of times we get really tired and frustrated as we try to promote and advocate for the community colleges, and seeing our students, faculty, staff, sponsors, trustees and administrators really affirms what we believe in and that’s for which we advocate,” Holda said during his opening statement. “As the single largest enroller of students in higher education, we know that you all are really our future and we want to prepare all of you for success in life by offering great educational opportunities, all of which have high quality, great value, easy access and community focus. The community colleges are a powerful force in this state.”

According to the Association of Community Colleges, community colleges serve a broad cross section of Texans helping our state in “Closing the Gaps” to make college accessible for more Texans.

Senator Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo said 75 percent of the people who start higher education in the state of Texas start with community colleges. By the time that they

community colleges. By the time that they get out of the community college they have an associate’s degree, certificate or go on to a college that has as good of higher education as you can get and is just as competitive in price as anywhere in the country.

TACC statistics show community college transfers succeed at universities and  community college students are more likely to graduate and are more likely to graduate in less time.

“You [students] are the cornerstone of a workforce and the future of the economy of the state of Texas,” Seliger said.

Students were able to discuss topics such as financial aid, transfer articulation, dual credit, campus safety and workforce training with State Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview.

“One of the good things I think that has happened is that community colleges have reached down to high school students and so you have better use of time and money with dual credit and students getting a lot done in the 11th and 12th grades,” Simpson said.

Simpson is also a firm believer in allowing students and college employees to bring guns on campus. Campus carry has been a controversial topic for multiple sessions and has come back into the spotlight as a bill for Texas colleges after several recent tragedies.

“I believe that like the First Amendment, we have the unalienable right to defend ourselves,” Simpson said. “It shouldn’t be a student can’t defend themselves zone.”

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