Identifies ways to improve student outcomes & transform higher education
Austin Community College District (ACC) is exploring opportunities to improve student outcomes, close workforce gaps, and expand access to financial well-being for our community.
The college’s new Chancellor, Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, has spent his first month meeting the students, faculty, and staff. His First 100 Days plan includes scheduled tours and conversations at all 11 ACC campuses as well as virtual town hall meetings with both employees and students. To date, he has engaged with student secret shoppers, visited 8 campuses and hosted two town hall meetings to understand how both students and employees are receiving the college and the challenges they face.
“What I’ve learned is that we’re a college that loves our students and that we love them deeply. I’ve seen many examples of where we do this profoundly. ACC is one of the largest colleges in the nation. The people here work hard. We’re doing 1,000 wonderful things. What we need now is a unifying goal to improve student success at scale,” says Dr. Lowery-Hart. “Every college is battling these issues. ACC is going to be the place that will tackle them. I had planned to spend my first 100 days listening and learning, but I see a community ready for change and ready to support our students in new ways. We are going to move more quickly than I had intended. We need to.”
On Monday, November 6, Dr. Lowery-Hart hosted his first press conference as Chancellor of ACC to share his insights with the community, from student outcomes to House Bill 8 — the state’s new funding model.
Understanding Student Outcomes at ACC
ACC serves nearly 70,000 students each year. Dr. Lowery-Hart has made it clear students are the college’s purpose and ensuring their success is our mission.
In recent years, ACC has tracked strong growth in improving student outcomes. Graduation rates have recently more than tripled to 22 percent in 2023.
“I am proud of the incredible work that this college has done and of the people who have done this incredible work. We couldn’t have done this without the dedication of our faculty and staff. We should all celebrate this growth. I think we are ready to do more. Since COVID, our students need us differently. Our community needs us differently. Nearly 70 percent of ACC students are financially insecure. We have to tackle these issues and build the supports that love our students to success,” says Dr. Lowery-Hart.
During his first 100 days, Lowery-Hart will work with teams across the college and in the community to develop predictive analytics that can better identify when and where students may need support before they experience a crisis that could put their completion goals at risk.
Among his first priorities is tackling child care needs. Starting November 6, the college will host specialty work sessions with the Board of Trustees to tackle such critical issues. The November 6 meeting will focus on understanding how ACC students are accessing child care services. Subsequent work sessions on child care will be held in December and January.
“We’re here to build, respond, and reimagine the work we do to support our students to success. We have to be more transparent and collaborative with our community. I’m asking us to build systems that can glue us to the social service agencies in our community. We have the resources and partners to figure this out.”
House Bill 8 Opportunities
This year, the State enacted House Bill 8 (HB8) — a new funding model for colleges in Texas that shifts funding for colleges from enrollment rates to completion rates.
“I believe HB8 brings real opportunity to our students and our community, but there is work to be done,” says Lowery-Hart.
In 2023, data show ACC received approximately $6 million in state appropriations based on its current completion rates. Other peer colleges in the region received approximately $34 million additional dollars and another received about $28 million.
“We have to do more and not just for funding but for our students. It is our moral imperative to help our students to success. ACC and Central Texas as a whole has the talent, ideas, and resources to be the best in the state,” says Lowery-Hart. “I’m not asking this college to simply pass students, but rather to raise our standards and expectations and help our students complete and earn a family-sustaining wage.”
During the remainder of his First 100 Days, Dr. Lowery-Hart will continue to meet with students, faculty, staff, and partners in the community to explore opportunities for change.
“I’d like to solve for our challenges in a transparent way. It’s about working together to thoughtfully design programs, modalities, and resources that love our students to success. These conversations take courage and transparency. I want to thank our faculty, staff, and students for their courage to transform the college.”
Beginning the week of November 6, 2023, the Chancellor will host a series of focus groups and work sessions with students. Their feedback help the college redefine its institutional values. ACC also will hire an outside firm to evaluate its structures and processes to optimize performance and help the college identify areas for improving this work.
Finally, the work to connect with faculty and staff will continue and will help the college identify a unifying goal to improve student success and develop a theory of change to reach that goal.
Following his first 100 days, Dr. Lowery-Hart will share a report with the community that will serve as an outline and a guide for how ACC will proceed. The plan will include the use of predictive analytics and data to identify where and when ACC students need additional support to be given before the crisis happens.
“The report will be reflective of a region that is in transition, that is growing, and a region that needs this college differently today than it has ever needed us in our 50-year history. This plan will help guide us to be the best college in the country. It is the school our students, employees, and our community deserve.” says Dr. Lowery-Hart.
You can follow the discussion and progress on the Chancellor’s First 100 Days website, visit austincc.edu/100.
Dr. Lowery-Hart joined ACC as the college’s ninth chancellor on October 2, 2023. Previously, he served as president of Amarillo College since 2014. Under his leadership, the college earned the title of the top community college in the nation through the prestigious 2023 Aspen Prize, a Community College Excellence award.