Alabama Community College System chancellor happy with legislative budget

By: - June 15, 2023 6:59 am
A man at a desk gesturing.

Jimmy H. Baker, the chancellor of the Alabama Community College System, presents the ACCS’ budget proposal to legislators on March 7, 2023. The presentation came on the first day of the Alabama Legislature’s 2023 regular session. (Brian Lyman/Alabama Reflector)

The chancellor of the Alabama Community College System said Wednesday he is happy with the money allocated to the community college system this legislative session.

“We made it very clear, specific, specifically each project, so I think they felt comfortable knowing we were voting on this to be built in my district and then the other factors as well,” Jimmy Baker said. 

In the record $8.799 billion Education Trust Fund budget, the community college system received an increase of $35.5 million (6.9%) to $551 million. Baker said that they work a few years ahead on their budget.

“A lot of the projects that were funded in this session were projects that we’ve had on the drawing board for several years,” he said.

Baker said that he wants lawmakers to understand what the system is doing and planning for, so that when they say need something, it’s because they’ve determined that need over a period of time.

More than 168,000 students study in the system each year. It includes 24 colleges and employs over 9,700 people.

The ACCS currently charges $125 per credit hour at all its campuses except Marion Military Institute. The charge will go up to $127 per credit hour in the fall. The fee does not include any costs the individual colleges assess.

Looking forward, he said the state is still not doing enough to provide skills-based training for students in Alabama.

“We still as a state as a whole, we still are deficient in providing the kinds of things at the level we need to be able to provide in terms of varieties of skills training programs, we still have a significant population of people that need special training, special skills training, so they can participate in the labor market at a wage that makes them comfortable,” he said.

During the Wednesday meeting of the system’s board of trustees, Boone Kinard, executive director of external affairs, said the bulk of the increase provided by the legislature was for operations and maintenance funding. He said the colleges have the most flexibility with this funding.

The funding includes money for 2% raises for employees, part of the broader raise for education employees included in the budget. 

He also said that one-time expenditures were approved, including some funding for prison education and career tech facilities and equipment.

“This is an unprecedented amount of funding provided to the ACCS,” he said. “It really shows the level of confidence and support that Alabama’s legislature has in the community college system right now.

On Wednesday, according to a news release, four members of the ACCS Board of Trustees were also sworn in:

  • Britton Lightsey, Chief Executive Officer of Tombigbee Electric Cooperative, will represent District 4, which includes the mid-North of the state.
  • Ron Houston, President and Chief Executive Officer of Houston Resource Group, will represent District 6, which includes the middle of the state.
  • Tim McCartney, Chairman of the Alabama Workforce Council, will be the at-large trustee.
  • John Mitchell, who owns several automobile dealerships, will continue to represent District 2, which is the southeastern part of the state. He was first appointed in 2019.

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Jemma Stephenson
Jemma Stephenson

Jemma Stephenson covers education as a reporter for the Alabama Reflector. She previously worked at the Montgomery Advertiser and graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.