Editorials

Here’s what voters should do on Tarrant County College’s $825 million bond proposal

For decades, Tarrant County College has been a quiet success story. Over the years, it has grown, adapted to the needs of students and the economy and helped fuel Fort Worth’s tremendous growth.

Now, it’s bursting at the seams. For the first time in 25 years, college leaders are asking Tarrant County voters to approve a bond proposition. It’s a big one — $825 million. But the college has been a wise steward of public money, and its plans merit a “yes” vote on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Tarrant County College is an important economic engine for our area, helping to train a modern workforce in important fields such as health care. But it’s also an engine for social progress. Thousands of students who otherwise would not have access to higher education are able to afford classes, thanks to the college’s commitment — and taxpayers’ continued support.

That’s why the bond proposition is so important. The college has outgrown its facilities, badly. And it has an opportunity now to update each of its campuses to ensure it’s aligned with the changing needs of higher education.

Its growth is astounding. Since that last bond proposal, enrollment has more than doubled. At the Southeast campus, in Arlington, 12,000 students are crammed into facilities designed to house 5,000 when it was built. A row of modular classrooms has been tacked on next to the main building, both unsightly and insufficient for modern needs.

That campus would see an investment of $125 million, enough for entire new buildings and renovations to current structures. Even the parking lots need an overhaul.

But the biggest chunk of the bond package would go to the Northwest campus, where buildings date to the 1970s and look it. For $308 million, the campus in one of Fort Worth’s booming areas would get new classrooms, improved parking and physical education facilities, and better work spaces for faculty and staff.

The northwest campus would also be home to a new early college focused high school, to be operated with the Fort Worth school district. That kind of innovation is a great example of the college’s focus on helping students get an affordable head start on higher education.

Most of the college’s funding comes through property taxes, and the rate is modest -- about 13 cents per $100 property valuation. College officials pledge to fund the bond program without a tax rate increase, though, of course, most homeowners are paying significantly more to all taxing entities because of the rapid rate of growth in property appraisals.

For decades, though, Tarrant County College has grown and adapted to serve expanding needs without asking to incur debt. Voters should return the favor and make an investment in the changing workforce by approving this rare request.

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