It was time for a quiz in a microeconomics class at Tarrant County College’s Trinity River campus, so students paired up to test their knowledge of municipal bonds.  

The bonds in question were TCC’s own, the $825 million bond program Tarrant County voters approved  in 2019. It was the first bond package election for TCC since 1993. 

Professor Hameed Salihu’s economics class is using the school’s bond program to teach students about bonds and how they work. 

“It’s a good opportunity because they can see what these bonds are doing,” he said.

And they can see them, literally. 

TCC maintains a bond page with live video feeds showing construction taking place at its Northwest campus. 

With TCC preparing for its next debt sale soon, the TCC Trinity River students have the opportunity to observe the pricing and hear about the process from representatives from TGL Financial Consulting and PFM Financial Advisors, TCC’s financial advisers.

The two financial advisers started with a basic definition of bonds, which have been a part of the U.S. tax code since 1913 and used by state and local governments to finance public capital improvements and public infrastructure projects. 

The TCC bond program is currently being used to construct, improve, renovate and equip buildings throughout the six-campus district. 

The Northwest campus portion of the project is $320 million and the Southeast campus improvements are $125 million. On June 17, the TCC board of trustees approved a $105 million contract with Skanska USA for the Northwest campus construction, according to a TCC press release

Bonds are sold to institutional investors such as mutual funds, insurance companies, banks and corporations, and retail investors, such as wealthy individuals and bank trust departments, the advisers told the class.

Those transactions can be made through a competitive sale, a negotiated sale or a private placement. How much can be raised and how good an interest rate an institution can receive in a bond sale can be impacted by the current economy and now is not a great time to sell your bonds, said Adrian Galvan, managing director of TGL. 

Galvan noted the recent inflation rate that is the highest in 40 years and the slow economic growth during the pandemic as two reasons for the poor bond market. 

One of the students in the class, Olga Rodriguez, currently works at the JPS Health Network and said she is looking to add more business knowledge as she moves on in her career. She plans to attend the University of Texas at Arlington. 

“This presentation definitely taught me a lot about how bonds are impacted by the economy and how you as an individual can potentially invest in a bond,” she said. 

Another student, Caroline Britain, is attending Texas A&M in the fall and she wanted to gain some business knowledge prior to pursuing her degree in business there. 

“I did have a basic knowledge of bonds, but throughout this class, I have learned significantly more about bonds that has expanded my horizons within microeconomics,” she said. 

While municipal bonds can be a dry subject, the two presenters kept the class lively through two Kahoot! Quizzes that students collaborated on answering via their laptops. 

“I thought it would be a good way to keep them involved. I thought it was fun,” said Jennifer Arndt, senior managing consultant with PFM Financial Advisors. 

While the subject was municipal bonds, the two presenters also gave the students some career advice. 

“If you know someone in the career field you want to go into, go talk to people,” Galvan told the students. “You’d be surprised how many people will stop and talk to you and give you advice and maybe help you.” 

Galvan and Arndt also recommended the students read Angela Duckworth’s book, “Grit”, and apply those principles to their career. 

Grit is defined in the book as “passion and sustained persistence applied toward long-term achievement, with no particular concern for rewards or recognition along the way.” 

Galvan said they wanted to talk about career advice because most of the students are just beginning their careers. 

“I think it’s advice they can use now,” he said. 

How much do you know about bonds? 

1. Tax-exempt municipal bonds were created by: 

  1. State law 
  2. Federal tax code
  3. The Federal Reserve 
  4. The Constitution

2. The type of sale where bids are taken on the day of pricing is called: 

  1. Negotiated sale 
  2. Brokered sale 
  3. Private placement 
  4. Competitive sale 

3. Tarrant County College’s general obligation bonds will be repaid by: 

    A Sales taxes collected in Tarrant County

               B. The Federal Government 

              C. The state of Texas 

              D. Property taxes collected in Tarrant County 

4. At its last Open Marketing Committee meeting, the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark rate by: 

  1. 1%
  2. -1%
  3. 0.25%
  4. 0.75%

Answers: 1. B 2. D 3. D 4. D 

Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at bob.francis@fortworthreport.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated July 6, 2022 to clarify the amount of TCC’s bond program.

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Bob Francis

Bob Francis is business editor for fortworthreport.org. He has been covering business news locally and nationally for many years. He can be reached at bob.francis@fortworthreport.org