ACC Report Card

Chamber of Commerce releases first-ever Progress Report; outlines challenges ACC faces and how business community can help

Austin Community College is doing a good job of growing its enrollment in step with the Austin area's population growth and in preparing students for further education or entry into the workforce, but it needs to work even harder if it is to keep pace with Central Texas' future demands, says the Austin Chamber of Commerce.

Last month, the chamber released its first-ever ACC Progress Report, a document designed to outline the challenges ACC faces and how the business community can help out. Among the chamber's most significant findings: The rate at which ACC has grown its enrollment, graduates, and technical certificate earners is greater than metro Austin's population growth since 2000. Also, its enrollment of Latinos and African-Americans has exceeded those groups' population growth rates. However, ACC currently has a target growth rate of 2.2% per year from 2006 to 2010, which will fall behind metro Austin's projected growth of 3%. Along the same lines, the local Latino population is expected to grow 5% per year for the rest of this decade, which will jump ahead of ACC's 3.2% target.

The report applauded ACC in preparing students for licensing exams, noting that 90% of such students pass, with strong growth in health-related fields. However, this growth is still lagging well behind market demand – as noted in a recent Chronicle report, Austin has a nursing shortage, and the chamber encouraged even more growth in ACC's Allied Health Science programs.

How can ACC pick up the pace? In a word, money. Only four school-district boundaries are completely within the 30-school-district education service area of ACC, the report notes, and "if its tax base is not expanded, ACC may face severe fiscal constraints in keeping up with Metro Austin population growth. To that end, the Austin business community should consider supporting ACC's efforts to expand its taxing district."

Also to that end, on Tuesday a group of Round Rock citizens calling themselves ACCtion 4 Education presented ACC administrators with an 8,000-signature petition asking for a May election to annex the remaining two-thirds of Round Rock Independent School District not currently within ACC boundaries. "We need a talented, well-trained, and educated workforce to hire from," said Barry Mayer, co-chair of the chamber's ACC task force and president of Tokyo Electron America. "Of course we can bring people in from other parts of the country, but the cost and time associated with doing that adds up. We all benefit when we have a homegrown, educated workforce that can fill the needs of the companies growing right here in Austin. This is where ACC plays a significant role in developing that talent base."

"Many don't realize that ACC is the primary gateway to higher education and workforce training in Central Texas," said ACC's Kinslow. "To meet growing demands, ACC must have more financial support to enable it to expand its instructional capacity and its important programs and services."

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