VC president testifies at House hearing on lowering dual-credit costs for rural students

Dr. Jennifer Kent

Victoria College President Dr. Jennifer Kent testified on April 8 to the Texas House of Representatives Committee on Higher Education in support of House Bill 2766 that would establish a pilot program reducing the enrollment costs of dual-credit classes for economically disadvantaged high school students.

On April 27, the committee passed the bill by a vote of 10-0. The Texas House of Representatives approved the bill the next day. It is now before the Texas State Senate, where it will require a two-thirds vote to pass. If passed during this session, the bill would take effect on Sept. 1.

“It was an honor to testify in support of House Bill 2766, which would increase dual-credit participation by students in rural school districts,” Kent said. “For students in poverty, even a reduced price for dual-credit classes is often out of reach. HB 2766 addresses access issues that can prevent high school students from graduating with college hours.”

The pilot program would be established by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which would award grants to up to 10 participating community colleges. Eligible students in the service areas of the selected community colleges could receive financial assistance for all or part of their dual-credit tuition and required fees.

The bill, which was introduced by State Rep. Glenn Rogers, would set requirements for colleges participating in the program, detail which students were eligible for financial assistance, and require a report on the program’s effectiveness.

“House Bill 2766 addresses socioeconomic discrepancies in high school dual-credit courses,” Rogers said. “Many rural, low-socioeconomic high school students’ GPAs, class rank, and subsequent automatic admission under the “top 10% law” are being adversely impacted by weighted dual-credit courses due to lack of family and community college financial resources. HB 2766 creates a pilot program that seeks to correct this issue by establishing a grant fund to help economically disadvantaged high school students pay for tuition and fees at small to medium-sized community colleges across the state.”

Kent said she has seen the discrepancy firsthand.

“I was raised in a rural school district, so I understand the financial challenges high school students face,” Kent said. “Dual-credit courses are often weighted by high schools, and this in turn leads to unequal representation of students who cannot afford to enroll in them in the top 10 percent of their class, which can harm their chances of being admitted to a public university in the state.”

State Rep. Geanie Morrison, a Victoria College alum, is among the 11 sponsors of the bill.

“This pilot program would be a much-needed step to address the growing inequality between rural and urban dual-credit accessibility at our state’s community colleges,” Morrison said. “Any measure to improve access to higher education for our Texas high school students is a good thing. It would be beneficial for all involved.”