Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the bond election necessary at this time?
The election is primarily about dealing with unprecedented growth and ensuring access for those in our community who want to improve their education and career opportunities and quality of life. Lone Star College is the fastest growing community college in the nation having added almost 30,000 students in the last five years. That is the equivalent of adding one Lee College, with an enrollment of 6,000 students, every year for the last five years. When the last bond passed in 2008 LSCS had 49,000 students and the bond plan then projected enrollment to grow to 60,000 students by 2015. Enrollments are already at almost 78,000 students, 18,000 students above that projection in 2012 so the we are not just planning for the future, we are needing to catch up from the unprecedented and unexpected growth. The college has experienced steady enrollment every year in its 40 year history.
With population projections for our region continuing to explode and more and more students choosing a community college to begin their higher education we do not expect that growth trend to cease.
How have the actual student headcount numbers grown at Lone Star College?
From 2001 to 2012 fall credit student headcount has increased by almost 48,000 students from 30,288 to 77,877 and just in the last five years student headcount has increased by almost 30,000 credit students. That is an increase of 58% in five years. This makes Lone Star College the fastest growing community college in the US Spring enrollments, which are traditionally lower than fall at all colleges and universities, have also grown steadily every year. In the last five years spring student counts have also increased 58%.
Lone Star College System student headcounts have never decreased from year to year. These numbers are certified by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Why do student headcount numbers differ from other sources?
The certified fall student headcount for 2012 is 77,877 which is the number most often cited for institutions of higher education. This number, however, only represents students taking academic credit courses. It does not include students who are taking workforce and non credit courses. When those students are added the total student headcount exceeds 90,000 students.
Also various state and federal agencies count students differently. Some only count full time students for example, so there are multiple ways to count students. The certified credit students headcount is the most commonly used measure.
What student headcount numbers were used in making projections for the bond?
To make the most accurate projections for future facilities needs we used a total student on campus count. This number includes all credit students plus all workforce non credit and continuing education students taking classes on campus. This gives us the most accurate student count to determine the future needs for facilities. This number is the most accurate for these purposes, but is not a commonly reported number.
How is it possible to build these projects and not increase the tax rate?
Lone Star College System has a long history of very conservative fiscal policies and strong financial management practices that has allowed us to manage debt very effectively. With a AAA rating from Standard and Poor’s that allows us to borrow money at a lower rate than most other public entities, a proven system of accelerated debt payment through effective bond planning, and a growing tax base fueled by new businesses and residents moving into the area makes it possible to borrow money for these construction projects without increasing the tax rate for local taxpayers.
The bond elections in 2000 and 2008 were handled in this manner with a commitment that the tax rate would not increase and that bond portion of the tax rate actually declined since 2000.
What facts reflect the strong financial management at Lone Star College System?
There are a number of key indicators of the strong financial management at LSCS. The AAA bond rating awarded to Lone Star College System by Standard and Poor’s is a rare accomplishment for community colleges in particular and public entities in general. It allows the college to borrow money at a lower rate and is a reflection of their strong financial position. In S&P’s rating report they stated that “The district’s financial position has been, and is projected to remain strong, in our opinion. The stable outlook reflects the district’s stable and expanding tax base and Standard and Poor’s expectation that the district will sustain its sound financial position and maintain its current management practices while meeting growing enrollment driven service demands.”
In addition to the AAA bond rating, Lone Star College System has also received the national Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting every year since 2004. LSCS also has one of the nation’s lowest Administrative Costs of a little over 11% of the annual budget, down from 17% just five years ago). Lone Star College Systems conservative and effective financial management provides an even greater return on the investment in the community.
Didn't LSCS just implode buildings at the LSC-University Park campus?
In late 2011, Lone Star College was interested in acquiring additional parking to accommodate the growth in students and tenants at LSC-University Park. HP was interested in disposing of two buildings (CCA 7, CCA 8) and the nearby parking garage and did not want to continue funding the cost of maintaining and insuring these empty buildings, which was costing over $1 million per year. LSCS was not interested in purchasing the buildings, since they did not meet LSCS standards or needs for academic classroom or instructional lab facilities. HP decided to demolish the two buildings and Lone Star College purchased the garage and the vacant green space.
This land is now being utilized to construct the Lone Star College Energy & Manufacturing Institute providing classroom and technical training facilities for specialized workforce training that meets student needs, and the needs of Houston’s top employers and growth industries. The new LSC Energy & Manufacturing Institute will provide hands-on training in high-bay labs, simulation classrooms and well-equipped laboratories. It is not possible to create this type of specialized space by renovating or repurposing a standard office building.