Texarkana College Trustees took formal action on Monday Feb. 25, 2019 to approve the addition of a new associate of applied science degree of pharmacy technology to the degree offerings in TC’s Health Sciences division.

According to a press release, the program provides training to students seeking entry into a career in pharmaceuticals and builds a skilled workforce to meet local employer needs for more certified pharmacy technicians. Courtney Shoalmire, Dean of Health Sciences, said workforce projections indicate that the demand for certified pharmacy technicians will increase by more than 25 percent over the next five years.

“Students who successfully complete the degree program will have a competitive advantage in landing a job in a local pharmacy setting,” Shoalmire said. “Several local pharmacists and healthcare providers serve on the program’s advisory board and have helped customize the curriculum according to regional workforce needs. There is a growing demand for skilled workers in this field, and TC is helping fill the void through this program.”

Pharmacy Technology instructor Tammy Cochran said students can complete the entire program in two years, but will be prepared to enter the workforce after the second semester.

“The two-year degree is structured so that students will complete a Level-2 certificate after the first year, and will be prepared to take their credentialing exam at the end of the spring semester,” said Cochran. “Students can begin working immediately after earning their certification and continue with the program while earning income. The second year of the program hones in on skills local employers have identified as necessary to thrive in the fast-paced, detailed work environment, including communication, math and leadership training.”

The new degree program is fully fundable through the federal Pell Grant program for students who qualify for federal financial aid. TC currently offers courses to complete a Level-2 certificate in Pharmacy Technology, and interested students can begin the first half of the degree this summer. The new associate degree program will begin in fall 2019.

In other business, Trustees voted to approve TC’s administrative recommendation to authorize the issuance and sale of Maintenance Tax Notes in the principal amount of $10,000,000 to fund critical campus repairs and capital improvement projects. TC President Dr. Jason Smith said although significant campus improvements and repairs have been made over the past five years, TC must address remaining deferred maintenance needs and modernization of core academic facilities to continue to operate efficiently and cost-effectively without risk to student safety or security.

“When you look at some of TC’s aging instructional spaces, they do not reflect the needs of today’s educational requirements,” said Smith. “Several aged HVAC systems still remain in place that are decades beyond their useful life, and there are areas throughout campus that are still not compliant with ADA regulations. The needed capital improvements are costly, but they are necessary to accomplish the College’s strategic goal of enhancing, upgrading and renovating facilities to meet state and federal ADA compliance standards and modernize instructional space.”

Smith said the decision to remodel and modernize existing space is a cost-savings compared to the alternative option of constructing new buildings.

“By remodeling existing buildings, projects can be accomplished for a more conservative cost averaging 25-30 percent less than building new structures,” said Smith. “However, even with the consideration of every cost-savings measure, the financial investment needed for this project is expected to be $15 million, and this is outside of what the normal budget can handle.”

Smith said the college will use a combination of unencumbered general fund reserves along with tax revenue to repay the maintenance tax notes over the next 20 years.

“It is our goal to repay the notes with minimal impact on our taxpayers,” Smith said. “It is a top priority to keep the Texarkana College’s total tax rate 20 percent below the state average and one of the lowest among all East Texas colleges.”

During the meeting, Trustees also took action to approve a resolution in support of TexAmericas Center’s (TAC) proposal to the Texas Legislature to amend the Texas Special District Local Law Codes allowing leased property at TAC to be exempt from ad valorem taxes. If legislation were approved, Texarkana College would no longer receive real property tax revenue from TexAmericas tenants. However, once legislation is enacted, TAC will implement a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program that will offset up to 90 percent of lost tax revenue from existing tenants. Smith said the fiscal impact is projected to be nominal and the potential growth in regional economic growth is substantial.

“The legislative change, if enacted, has great potential for attracting new economic development opportunities and expanding the tax base for years to come,” said Smith. “We value our partnership with TexAmericas Center and support their efforts to attract more businesses and jobs to our area.”