Scott Ball / Rivard Report
In his first public speech as Alamo Colleges chancellor on his eighth day in office, Mike Flores laid out his vision for the area’s largest higher education provider, the Alamo Community Colleges District.
The district, which serves about 100,000 students at five colleges and seven education and training centers, reaches students in Bexar and seven surrounding counties.
Flores’ vision for his coming term in office focuses on one central idea: ending poverty through education. Flores outlined the four key strategies he hopes will accomplish that lofty goal at a San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday.
The strategies’ emphasis on education stems from the demographic makeup of Alamo Colleges’ students. About 70 percent are either Hispanic or black, and around 70 percent of the total student population receive some kind of financial aid. More than 80 percent of students are part-time, taking less than three courses per semester.
“We know that time is the enemy of college completion,” Flores said.
To tackle this challenge, Flores said he wants to make it easier for students to complete college in a timely manner. The first way he plans to do this is by partnering with school districts through early-college programs and career-based training programs.
Alamo Colleges currently operates 16 early-college high schools, serving roughly 12,800 students, which is “like a mid-sized school district,” Flores said. These students take college-level courses while in high school, with the goal of graduating with both a high school diploma and an associate degree.
“[School districts] are actually going to submit to the State that they have college graduates before they have high school graduates,” Flores said.
The chancellor spoke highly of these programs, saying with their continued success, college enrollment and matriculation rates would likely increase.
Flores’ second strategy aims to facilitate the transition from community college to a four-year institution in what he calls “seamless university transfer.”
In the last four years, Alamo Colleges has transferred roughly 31,000 students to the University of Texas at San Antonio, more than 12,000 students to Texas A&M University-San Antonio, and close to a combined 12,000 students to Texas A&M University and University of Texas at Austin.
In the coming years, Flores wants to see these numbers increase by further aligning curriculum to degree programs at universities through the Texas Transfer Pathways Compact. The compact is a consortium of regional universities including Austin Community Colleges, Texas State University, and TAMU-SA that works to align program requirements to make transferring easier.
Flores’ third focus is bolstering the middle-skills job workforce that is made up of people in positions that require matriculation from high school, but less than a four-year degree. These jobs comprise 56 percent of the state’s job market, Flores said, but only 42 percent of Texas workers are trained to this level.
He outlined the high-wage opportunities for middle-skill workers in areas such as advanced manufacturing, aviation mechanics, and nursing, and said he wants to focus on producing more graduates to fill vacancies in these areas.
“We want to ensure [our students] go into those high-demand, high-wage jobs,” Flores said.
The chancellor’s final strategy focuses on outside factors that affect students’ work in the classroom. The majority of Alamo Colleges students reported worrying about paying for school, and close to half said they worried about paying monthly expenses, Flores said.
The Alamo Colleges district will look at establishing a resource center network on each Alamo Colleges campus that contains resources such as food pantries, clothes closets, counseling, case management, financial literacy, and access to emergency loans.
Flores took over as head of the district from outgoing Chancellor Bruce Leslie on Oct. 1. He previously served in a variety of leadership roles at Palo Alto College, eventually becoming president in 2012. Flores is a graduate of Holmes High School and the University of Texas at San Antonio.