Area higher ed institutions continue to expand along with fast-growing county

Posted Friday, Jun. 28, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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It seems only natural that with Tarrant County’s rapid and steady growth, its institutions of higher learning would follow suit with increased enrollments, expanding campuses and additional academic programs.

That certainly has been true of the county’s premier public institutions as evidenced by news this week from Tarrant County College and the University of Texas at Arlington, both announcing major expansion plans.

Tarrant County College, already home to five growing campuses, has agreed to pay $16 million to buy Bell Helicopter’s Alliance Airport military programs facility, which it will use to establish a long-desired learning center for aviation, aerospace and logistics training. The $20 million facility will allow TCC to expand aircraft maintenance programs currently housed at Meacham Airport and its Northwest campus.

Officials at TCC point out that with a spring enrollment of 46,700, it is the sixth largest college or university in the state.

At UT Arlington, which saw another record enrollment this spring, at 33,806, got permission from the state Legislature to buy six acres of land — should they become available — across from its College Park Development. The bill permitting the acquisition of property between East Third and Mitchell streets was signed by the governor this month.

The university has been on a growth spurt in recent years with major development of residential, classroom, laboratory, athletic and retail projects on the campus. In addition, it has tripled its research budget in the last decade.

While the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth didn’t make major announcements this week, it should be noted that it, too, has had phenomenal growth in the last decade, doubling its enrollment since 2002.

Colleges and universities are part of the lifeblood of communities, bringing much more than their educational programming and academic credibility. They also contribute to an area’s cultural needs and its economy.

For a community as big as Tarrant County, with an array of diverse small businesses and large corporations, it is imperative that these institutions of higher learning keep pace with growth and continue to prepare workers for an ever-expanding and demanding workplace.

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