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(DALLAS) — "Live, learn and save!" That's the idea behind a pilot program started last spring in the Dallas County Community College District which offers reduced tuition — half price — to students who take classes during specific afternoon and weekend hours. Through the test program, DCCCD seeks to maximize the use of facilities during traditionally under-utilized times, to offer students excellent prices on those courses and to increase access to its programs.
"DCCCD was chosen by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board as one of eight institutions in the state to pilot this new program," explained Dr. William Wenrich, the district's chancellor. "During its last session, legislators passed a bill that would allow community colleges to charge varying tuition on a pilot basis, and the Coordinating Board is proceeding with the program's implementation for a year to see how well the concept works."
DCCCD is the only school or system in the Dallas/Fort Worth area involved in the reduced tuition pilot program. Members of the district's board of trustees gave their approval during the group's November 2001 board meeting to implement the process, beginning with the spring 2002 semester and continuing with fall 2002 and spring 2003. The district also received permission to extend the pilot program to spring 2003.
DCCCD told members of the Coordinating Board that 13,645 students signed up during off-peak times in fall 2001 before the new reduced tuition pilot program began. During fall 2002, the enrollment in off-peak times was 19,621 — a 44 percent increase for that time period. Following DCCCD's report, the Coordinating Board voted in late October to ask the Legislature to allow all Texas community colleges to offer the discounts.
"It's a question of access," explained Dr. Robert Aguero, DCCCD vice chancellor for educational affairs, who presented the report to the board. "We're attracting people who don't qualify for financial aid, like working moms."
Reduced tuition for students means more opportunities to take specific classes at half the normal cost of $78 per three-hour course at in-district rates. "We are offering students a chance to advance themselves and their careers and to save money," said Bob Brown, DCCCD vice chancellor for business affairs. "And, during a time in which the job market has tightened and thousands of people are out of work, this pilot program gives people a chance either to update their skills or to change career fields altogether."
Statewide, 2,723 full-time equivalent students have enrolled in half-price classes at selected community colleges since January - a number that represents thousands of actual students, who often take fewer classes than a traditional full-time student because they are working and going to school. DCCCD had 1,542 full-time equivalents in the reduced tuition pilot program classes.
Classes in the pilot program include those courses that start between 1:30 and 4:15 p.m., Monday through Thursday; and courses held between 1:30 p.m. Friday through 11 p.m. Sunday (weekend classes). The pilot program classes do not include summer sessions, mini-mesters (winter and May classes), flex entry (except flex-entry weekend classes), fast track or distance learning courses.
The reduced tuition cost is 50 percent (or half) of the regular tuition charged across all origins of residence: in-county, out-of-county or out-of-state/out-of-country. Currently, DCCCD charges $26 per credit hour as its regular tuition rate for in-county residents; under the reduced tuition pilot program, students would pay $13 per credit hour for classes that are scheduled during the specified afternoon and weekend time schedules.
"The classes affected by this pilot program are regular semester credit classes only," said Brown. "We believe that students across Dallas County are excited by the prospect of going to class and saving money as they build their own marketability. In turn, we will be able to use our facilities more efficiently. We also believe that students who can move from morning to afternoon schedules are leaving seats in morning classes that we can fill with other students."
All seven colleges within DCCCD offer courses through the reduced tuition pilot program in spring and fall semesters for 2002; however, the kinds of courses and the number of classes vary from campus to campus.
Most campuses offer a variety of business classes and general core courses, such as English, mathematics, history, government, performing arts, foreign languages, visual arts, psychology, sociology and others. Most campuses offer developmental courses; either ESOL or bilingual education courses; and computer science or computer information classes.
More specialized classes have limited enrollments at specific locations, such as health care (nursing, nutrition, veterinary technology, medical assisting, surgical technician and vocational nursing); electronics; child care; interior design; fashion design; culinary arts, restaurant management; welding; hospitality; architectural engineering; construction; electronic telecommunications; and others.
Interested persons should contact the individual college they wish to attend for more information about specific classes and costs.
DCCCD, which serves approximately 62,000 credit students from throughout Dallas County, comprises Brookhaven College in Farmers Branch/Carrollton; Cedar Valley College in Lancaster; Eastfield College in Mesquite; El Centro College in downtown Dallas; Mountain View College in Oak Cliff; North Lake College in Irving; and Richland College in Richardson; plus the Bill J. Priest Institute for Economic Development and the LeCroy Center for Educational Telecommunications.