Legislature Deals Tough Hand To Kilgore College

The debate over state budgets has stopped in the Texas Legislature. Now the reality of what happened behind house doors is hitting community colleges across the state.

Kilgore College in Kilgore stands to lose $4.8 million in state funding because of bills passed during the 78th Legislature. The school's tally of losses includes: one million in new enrollment funding; one million in 2002-2003 fiscal year funding; 2.3 million in state appropriations and $500,000 in health care benefits needed to cover physical plant employees.

"Community colleges enroll 73% of all freshman and sophomores in our state," says Kilgore College President, Bill Holda. "We also enroll 44% of every student in the state, which is the highest single enroller of students. Yet when you look at higher education, the dollars are carved up...and community colleges receive the single lowest of those dollars."

When the 4.8 million is gone, Kilgore college will have lost 10 percent of its operating expenses. To make up the loss, 17 staff positions will be cut -- some of them teaching jobs. The rest of the money will come from raises in tuition and cuts in travel expenses, printing costs, scholarships, financial aid...even extra-curricular activities.

Groups like the Kilgore College Rangerettes will now depend on underwriters and fund raisers to pay for trips outside East Texas. The Texas Shakespeare Festival and the campus radio station, KTPB will also see a cut in funding.

Kilgore College teachers are already paying more for prescription drugs and medical care, said Holda. Now the school is having to implement a 90-day freeze on benefits for new staff members.

   Kerri Panchuk, reporting.