The Texarkana College Board of Trustees learned at their meeting on July 27 that the U.S. Department of Education has approved Texarkana College’s Student Support Services (SSS) Grant application in the total amount of $1,272,635 payable over five years beginning Sept. 1, 2016. Grant funds will be used to provide first-generation, low-income or disabled college students with academic and support services needed to succeed in college and persist to graduation.
“Every student has the right to an equal opportunity to learn and succeed in college,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan. “These grants provide critical support to students who can benefit from extra help and encouragement along their college journey, enabling them to reach their personal goals and contribute to the economic vitality of our nation.”
The SSS program is a competitive grant opportunity open to four-year universities as well as community colleges throughout the United States. Texarkana College has been awarded SSS program funds since 1990 and has consistently scored in the top 10% of all applications received from institutions nationwide.
“The individualized attention we are able to provide students through this grant is a game-changer for students who otherwise wouldn’t have the means to get the help they need in their courses and programs,” said Dr. Tonja Mackey, director of TC’s SSS program. “My goal over the next five years is to maximize services for TC students and help them attain a stronger sense of belonging and confidence through academic coaching and access to tools needed for success.”
Texarkana College will receive funds to serve 225 students per year for the next five years. Services available to students include academic advising, tutoring, financial literacy education, financial aid information (FAFSA assistance), college success workshops, visits to upper-level institutions, leadership workshops, cultural/social activities, and career planning.
In other business, TC Board of Trustees approved a small cost of living increase for all full-time faculty and staff positions as part of an updated institution-wide compensation plan. The increase averages out to approximately 2% overall.
“This is the first time since 2010 that faculty members have seen an adjustment to their pay scale,” President James Henry Russell said. “We recognize the hard work and dedication our employees demonstrate every day, and a cost of living increase will help secure the future of our greatest resource, which is our faculty and staff.”
Russell reported that the total anticipated projection for compensation of all employees (full and part-time) is expected to be comparable to the 2014-2015 budget.
“We are running as efficiently as possible with personnel,” Russell said. “Within this current fiscal year, when positions have become open due to retirement or attrition, we assessed the vacancy and determined whether we could make adjustments to avoid filling the position. The small increase in salaries for fiscal year 2015-16 has been offset with the savings resulting from eliminated positions in the current year. We are also projecting savings on energy costs due to the approval of the energy management policy approved today.”
Texarkana College currently employs approximately 220 full-time faculty members and staff.
The Board of Trustees also approved a resolution honoring Sen. Kevin Eltife’s service to the state and to Texarkana College. Eltife recently announced that he will not seek re-election for his seat in the State of Texas Senate District 1. Since Eltife was sworn into office on March 5, 2004, he has served as a champion for Texas community colleges, especially those in his district, which includes Texarkana College.
“In 2011, when Texarkana College was struggling to keep its doors open, Texarkana College turned to Sen. Eltife for advice and support,” Russell said. “He served as our legislative champion and advocated on our behalf during times of uncertainty with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. As an institution, we are very grateful for his willingness to give Texarkana College attention and spend time with our leaders to help us when we needed support the most.”
Robert Jones, Texarkana College’s Dean of Students, will present the resolution to Eltife at a special ceremony held in his honor at Tyler Junior College on July 30. Area community college leaders will gather during this event to express gratitude to Eltife for his generous support and service.