MCALLEN, RGV – Mark Poehl, director of internal audit and compliance for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, recently presented an audit report on South Texas College.

Before the coordinating board, Poehl said STC management response indicates that STC has a very different interpretation of statute than that of THECB.

Their findings include a report of juvenile aged students and a zero tuition charge. There is a large number of students below 18–such as 1,961 15-year-olds, 703 14-year-olds, nine 13-year-olds and three students under the age of 13.

“Statute uses the term continuing adult education and rule further specifies such continuing education is to prepare students for immediate employment,” Poehl said. “[Children who are] 13 and 14 years old are not immediately employable and federal court labor laws place restrictions on employing individuals under the age of 18, 16 and 14.”

In reference to the second issue of waiving tuition, Poehl said receiving formula funding while waiving tuition is available for dual credit courses, but not for continuing education courses.

Shirley Reed, president of STC, Laura Sanchez, associate dean of institutional research and effectiveness at STC and Juan Carlos Aguirre, dean of continuing professional and workforce education for STC, approached the board and made their case.

Janelle Shepard, one of the members of the coordinating board, said as a taxpayer, she is concerned about double dipping for students who aren’t taking college level courses, yet there is formula funding for students younger than 12-years-old. In the state of Texas, children need to be 14-years-old to work.

“I’m just going to beg to differ with you – I don’t think those are college level courses,” Shepard said. “It’s not English 101 [and] it’s not College Algebra. Those are not really any courses that formula funding should be used for.”

David Teuscher, another member of the coordinating board, pointed out what STC was doing could be categorized as continuing juvenile education. He said a 41 percent dropout and failure rate means those students are not ready for college level material.

“And to be quite honest, I kind of side with where the auditors were,” Teuscher said. “I think, shame on you. You should’ve thought about this and you should’ve said we cannot possibly pull this thing over as being higher ed. It’s not higher ed, it’s secondary ed. It’s laudable, it’s good for your community, I appreciate you doing it, but this is not the intention for these funds. And you’re unique in the state right now.”

Editor’s Note: This story compliments a previous story about waiving tuition for continuing education programs. In the previous story, South Texas College President Shirley A. Reed spelled out STC’s position. She said STC had hired attorneys to defend itself. Click here to read the story.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Commissioner Raymund A. Paredes speaking at a South Texas College-sponsored event earlier this year.