DALLAS --Houston Community College District carries the largest debt load among community colleges in Texas with $617 million, followed closely by Alamo Colleges in the San Antonio area at $613 million, according to figures compiled by Texas Comptroller Susan Combs.

The compilation and analysis of community college debt was added to the comptroller’s “Debt-at-a-Glance” site this week, following similar records for cities, counties and school districts earlier in the year. The data is collected from the Texas Bond Review Board.

“Debt-at-a-Glance is intended to inform citizens, not to present comprehensive data for investors,” the comptroller’s office warns. “Data is provided as of the date indicated and may not reflect debt, debt service, population, enrollment or other data as of any subsequent date.”

Community college districts had $4.3 billion of outstanding debt as of the 2011 fiscal year that ended in 2012, representing 2.2% of local government debt outstanding. The Texas Bond Review Board estimates community colleges’ debt service for 2012 at $394 million. Debt outstanding per student in fiscal 2011 was 150% higher than fiscal 2001.

The data shows a wide disparity in debt loads among districts across the state. Tarrant County College District, which has about 5,000 more students than Houston CCD, carries only $22.7 million of debt. That comes to $400 per student compared to Houston’s $12,003, the highest per pupil in the state.

Lone Star College System District in suburban Houston ranks third in total debt at $550.8 million or $8,069 per student, followed by Austin Community College District at $400.9 million or $9,544 per student.

Dallas County Community College District carries $395.7 million or $5,038, followed by San Jacinto CCD, another Houston area district, with $309.1 million or $9,260 per student.

Voters in the Houston Community College District last year gave strong approval to $425 million of additional bond authority, with the first $300 million issued earlier this year.  The tax-supported debt earned ratings of Aa1 from Moody’s Investors Service, and AA-plus from Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings.

Six months later, voters in neighboring Lone Star CCD rejected a $497 million bond proposal in a light turnout with opposition from Tea Party activists.

Two community college districts are seeking approval of bond issues in next week’s election. The South Texas Community College District in Hidalgo County is asking voters for $159 million, while the North Central Texas CCD in Cooke County is seeking $14.8 million.

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