3 min read November 2023 — In an interview with Invest:, Mike Flores, Chancellor of Alamo Colleges District, discussed the unprecedented state investments in community colleges, the shifting expectations of today’s students, fostering entrepreneurship, strategies for promoting social mobility and diversity and his optimistic outlook for the Alamo Colleges District.
What are your thoughts on the financial support provided to public colleges and universities from both local and state governments?
This year, through House Bill 8, we saw the largest single investment from the state of Texas. The state invested an additional $750 million in the 50 community colleges in Texas. Of this, we received nearly $25 million. Community colleges are funded differently than universities and it’s evident that the state recognizes the value of community colleges in talent development. Their investment underscores the importance of institutions like Alamo Colleges. Our substantial funding is due to the performance-based system that also takes into account the demographics of those we serve. It’s a promising period for us.
Considering the changing expectations of students regarding their college experience, how have you adjusted your operations and curriculum?
Students today expect prompt and convenient services, mirroring the “just-in-time” approach of today’s vendors. We’ve become more responsive, aiming to offer education that’s convenient. We’ve shifted to not just having on-campus classes but also online options. These can be asynchronous, allowing students flexibility, or synchronous, where students can participate in real-time virtual discussions. A new initiative, Alamo Books, allows students to access digital textbooks from day one or have hard copies delivered to their homes. Our class schedules are also more flexible, with courses starting every two weeks and being offered during unconventional times, such as December and a three-week term in May. Additionally, while we have two health clinics on campus, students can opt for telehealth services. Even academic advising has gone virtual. We recognize the changing demands and are adapting to meet students’ needs wherever they are.
How is Alamo Colleges District fostering the growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem?
We support the entrepreneurial ecosystem in several ways. Firstly, we offer the Alamo Experience, which combines classroom theory with practical application. This allows students to practice what they’ve learned in real-world settings. For example, journalism or film students might produce articles or manage podcasts, while environmental science students could collect water samples from rivers or creeks. Another initiative involves connecting students with professionals in their field. For architectural and engineering students, this means visiting job sites and working alongside experts, followed by debriefing sessions to reflect on their experiences. This blend of theory and hands-on learning is crucial, especially when engaging with professionals in the respective industries. This approach ensures students are well-prepared for the challenges of their chosen fields.
Additionally, we’ve adopted “badges.” Students can enroll online and undergo a series of workshops or courses to earn a credential in entrepreneurship. Furthermore, experiential learning is emphasized, which is crucial for budding entrepreneurs. Also, our commitment to affordable education, including offering low or no-cost courses and tuition, plays a pivotal role. By minimizing student debt, we aim to empower graduates with better access to capital. Whether they seek a small-business loan or use their own savings, low debt ensures they are in a stronger position to invest in starting their own business. This access to personal capital is an essential component of fostering entrepreneurship.
What strategies are being implemented to enhance social mobility and promote diversity?
A core strategy is offering multiple avenues for prospective learners, such as the Alamo Promise program. Furthermore, we provide continuous support through our unique partnership approach. Prospective students first connect with an enrollment coach to guide them through the enrollment process. This coach then seamlessly transitions the student to an academic adviser who stays with them until graduation. Recognizing the diverse needs of today’s students, we ensure they are matched with the right program from over 300 available at Alamo Colleges. Coupled with experiential learning opportunities, we also assist in placing them in relevant fields upon graduation. This holistic approach, focusing on student success, meaningful employer connections and targeting high-wage, high-demand fields, is pivotal in advancing economic and social mobility.
What is the near-term outlook for Alamo Colleges District and what are your primary goals?
The future for Alamo Colleges District is incredibly bright. This year, the Alamo Colleges Board of Trustees approved a historic budget. This budget influx is a rare and significant opportunity. It will allow us to enhance our already robust systems, technology and programs to aid our current students on their success journeys and to implement new and enhanced innovations for future students, with a focus on our targeted populations. We’ve made a record investment in student support, both in the classroom and through services, whether that’s on campus or online. Over the last five years, we’ve allocated close to $750 million for new and renovated facilities. This means we can offer more programs, such as nursing, dental hygiene, welding, IT and cybersecurity. These new facilities have expanded our capacity, allowing us to serve more students in these key areas. We have 70,000 students enrolled and we expect this number to grow. Our successes have been recognized, resulting in substantial investments from the state. San Antonio’s growth, coupled with our dedicated leadership and passionate citizens, provides fertile ground for our continued expansion. Our success, driven by our 5,500 faculty and staff, allows us to support this record number of students. We’re proud to be the primary talent provider in our community and our aim is to keep delivering credentialed talent to meet the needs of employers, students, families and the community at large.
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