by Victor Lopez
ODESSA--State Representative Tryon Lewis is assuring West Texans that he's fighting tooth and nail to make sure Odessa College doesn't close. Lewis also revealed how Odessa College got on the state's hit list.
It was standing room only as the Odessa College alum told students, staff and everyone present, this fight has just begun. And when the dust settles, the OC Wranglers will continue to ride, strong and proud.
"We will fight this. We will win. The case is just too strong not to," Representative Lewis said.
Lewis said Tuesday felt like months ago. That's when he heard, proposed House Bill 1, contained zero funding for Odessa College and three other schools. That decision, which was not made by Representatives, but by staffers on the legislative budget board.
"It had nothing to do with education. It had nothing to do with the number of students who were being educated. It had nothing to do with the benefits to the state. It had only to do with percentage of growth and nothing else. Just percentage of growth of contact hours comparing two years, 1990 and 2010," Lewis explained.
Odessa College President, Dr. Gregory Williams, makes no apologies for having the greatest enrollment in the school's history. He does, however, tip his hat to Representative Lewis, the man, he says is coaching him on how to fight this battle.
"He has been in this fight with us. I want to say that publicly. He has been amazing. I will fight with him every day of the week on this battle. We will get this fixed," Williams said.
With these threats looming, what does this do to the recently passed bond election? Will plans to renovate and rebuild stop or simply slow down?
According to Dr. Williams, "Those are the same thing to me. So, both. We do plan to move forward. We will get those buildings done and that construction in place. We just have to be a little patient."
If the worst was to happen and the doors were closed, faculty staff and students would all be severely affected. Not everyone has the same options.
"I could go farm on a ranch for all I care. I do it because I understand that education gets us to a higher point in life and knowledge is power," Freshman Joshua Salcido, said.
Lewis says, no other community college has done a better job educating and training students to succeed in life and make Texas a great state. And since the state is definitely getting a bang for its buck from Odessa College then OC deserves a piece of the state's dollar.
"We're going to make that known. We're going to make that case and we're going to make sure nothing adverse happens to Odessa College," Lewis said.