If Mario won't come to A&M ...

Within the next five years, expect another four-year public university to increase higher-education access in a city that’s falling behind most other major Texas metropolises. Only 23 percent of San Antonio’s population hold bachelor’s degrees, but Texas A&M University-San Antonio, which is slated to begin classes on the South Side by 2009, will allow students in this more economically disadvantaged part of town to earn a college diploma closer to home.

“Just look at what UTSA did for the Northwest part of the city,” says Leo Sayavedra, A&M’s vice chancellor for academic and student affairs. “An education and cultural center changes an entire community to better people’s everyday lives. If San Antonio is going to be a competitive city, it needs to be a more comprehensive city, and that comes from more people with higher degrees.” Sayavedra says A&M is planning to enroll more than 25,000 students at the San Antonio campus over the next 20 to 25 years.

The City of San Antonio began talks with A&M in 1999, and by the fall of 2000, an A&M satellite program was opened on the Palo Alto College campus. In modular buildings along Villaret Boulevard, the A&M Kingsville System Center offers junior- and senior-level courses in subjects such as business administration, nursing, psychology, and criminology. Bachelor’s degrees are awarded through A&M-Kingsville.

Currently, the Kingsville Center enrolls 900 students, with 527 of those signed up for full-time schedules. In order to be eligible for a $40-million tuition-revenue bond approved by the Texas Legislature for construction of the four-year campus, the center must enroll 1,500 full-time students. Carolyn Green, the Kingsville Center interim dean, says the campus will meet this goal.

“We’ve gone out with recruiting and enrollment services to the ACCD campuses to make sure students interested in transferring here have the most up-to-date information and can have any questions or concerns they have answered,” says Green. With the new campus, Green adds, A&M is considering adding new degree programs, such as biology and marketing.

But the legislature’s requirement that A&M meet enrollment goals to begin construction creates a chicken-egg problem, says Sayavedra, because there must be more space to accommodate more students.

“The space and infrastructure is already very limited for teachers and students currently working at the center,” notes Sayavedra.

Another university with growing pains is UTSA, which has the least amount of space per student among Texas public universities, according to UTSA spokesperson David Gabler.

“We were the largest city in the country not to have a four-year public university until UTSA opened 36 years ago,” says Gabler. “Finding access to education is crucial in order for the city to have the best workforce.” He says UTSA hopes to work closely with A&M-San Antonio, as it does with the other universities and community colleges, to make sure more San Antonians earn college degrees.

In addition to the SA campus, A&M is planning a satellite in Killeen for 2009, which will be called Texas A&M University-Central Texas. Killeen also currently has a system center that must meet full-time enrollment requirements to receive state construction money.


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