During an interview on Monday, John Green talked about some of the challenges junior colleges, like Frank Phillips College and Clarendon College, are facing from his perspective as an athletic director.
Green, who had spent the past 10 years as the athletic director for Frank Phillips College before taking the same position at Clarendon College last week, said there is no question that the budget cuts proposed in the Texas State Legislature have grabbed the attention of the community colleges across the state.
It has caused all of them to try to find ways to show potential growth in order to keep from finding themselves on the list to lose state funding during the next budget cycle in two years.
In January, an initial House budget bill suggested eliminating state funding for four community colleges, including Frank Phillips. The good news is in March the House approved funding for all community colleges across the state, with all community colleges seeing as much as a 25 percent cut in state funding.
The message was sent to the institutions to have a solid plan for increasing credit hours and overall growth in order to continue to receive state funds in the future.
While none of the state institutions want to lose all of their state funding, all of the community colleges have had to learn to make some tough financial decisions over the past several years to cut back the amount of money provided to various programs. This is due to the fact the state has continued to cut its funding it is willing to provide to the schools.
Green said that the cuts to programs, including athletics, has been evident during his time at Frank Phillips. Around 10 years ago, each athletic team had about 10-11 scholarships to give to student athletes. This is compared to around half a dozen they are able to provide now. But Green points out that trend of having fewer athletic scholarships than in the past tends to be the common trend for many of the state community colleges.
All programs at the community college level are facing a drop in the funds provided to them by the school, including athletic programs. Green said there is still no question many of the community colleges, around the state, understand that having a solid athletic program plays a big role in helping to attract students to their campus and providing an identity for the institution within the community and beyond.
Green said, “There is no question that the primary focus in what we do is to provide the students with a quality education. However, there is no denying that athletics play a role in helping to attract students and associating the college with the public.”
Green added, “With technology giving students more options to choose from in where they get their education, it becomes more apparent to have programs that can help persuade them to come to your campus.”
For the impact athletes can play on a community college, Green uses the example of Western Texas College, located in Snyder.
According to Green, just over 10 years ago, Western Texas was a college that had an enrollment that was dwindling with a limited athletic program. However, over the past 10 years, Western Texas has added athletic programs including cross country, track and field, golf, volleyball and soccer, which Green believes has played a big role in the enrollment increase for the school. That includes a jump from 1,756 students in 2005 to 2,470 students in 2009, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Green also pointed out Odessa College’s addition of volleyball and Ranger Junior College reinstating football, showing that these institutions understand the role athletics can play in enrollment growth. Both of those schools found themselves on the list of potentially losing their state funding back in January as well.
Green went on to explain that each sport potentially brings in at least 15-20 students to campus and the community that potentially would not have considered many of the smaller schools without the opportunity to continue competing in a sport they love.
Green said, “The fact is students can go and get a good education anywhere they want and in many ways smaller schools are not always going to be able to compete with bigger schools like Amarillo College and West Texas A&M. But if we have programs that allow students to still live out their dreams, whether it’s in athletics, music, rodeo or even drama, then we will always be able to attract students looking for those opportunities and even keep some of our local area students from looking elsewhere.”
Green said there are plans in the works to add competitive cheerleading, track and field, and soccer to the list of athletic offerings Clarendon College will have in the near future. Green already has announced the addition of men’s golf for the fall of 2011.
While many schools are looking to sports for growth, there is no question that community colleges are looking at other places outside the playing field to add growth as well.
While Frank Phillips College continues its support for the athletic, rodeo and livestock judging programs it currently offers, the college is working hard in efforts to strengthen its ties to other Texas Panhandle communities like Dalhart, Spearman, Gruver and Canadian as part of its plan for growth in the near future.