Texas completion project loses Gates grant

A group of Texas community colleges have lost Gates Foundation funding for Completion by Design, reports Inside Higher Ed.

. . . the $35-million grant encourages groups of two-year colleges in four states to work together to keep more low-income and young students from slipping through the cracks and to better help guide them on a pathway to graduation. Teams of colleges in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas beat out 27 teams in nine states to participate in the five-year project, which began in 2010.

The five Texas colleges participating, led by the Lone Star College System, enroll one-third of the state’s community college students. The colleges had completed the planning phase, but hadn’t started implementation.

Richard Carpenter, Lone Star’s chancellor, called the move “unexpected and unfortunate” in an e-mail to Lone Star staff.

Gates officials haven’t explained the decision, reports Inside Higher Ed.

Some observers said the relative independence of the state’s community colleges posed challenges for the goals of the foundation, which typically expects visible results. In contrast, a cohesive statewide system, like the one in North Carolina, might be better suited for the level of coordination required by Completion by Design.

Carpenter, in his e-mail to Lone Star employees, said Gates officials had determined that Texas is “too big to succeed.”

Others, however, said the group led by Lone Star deserved some of the blame. One source at Lone Star, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, said project leaders from the system were disorganized.

Using state and regional funding the Texas colleges will continue the campaign to boost student success rates under the name Texas Completes.