FORT WORTH -- Tarleton State University's Southwest Metroplex Center in Fort Worth surpassed enrollment projections this fall with 1,123 students, about seven years after it opened and four years ahead of when it hoped to reach that goal.
Last year, Tarleton university officials estimated that the center, a satellite of the main campus in Stephenville, would reach 1,100 students in five years. But the fall enrollment shattered those estimates. Officials said the growth is fueled by several factors, including a demand by adult learners who are trying to improve their education during the economic downturn.
"We're growing so fast we are outgrowing our facility," said Alexandra Holloway, coordinator of community outreach for the Fort Worth center. "We don't see ourselves slowing down."
The campus -- which offers weekend, night and online classes -- also fits the schedules of people juggling jobs and family, she said.
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Enrollment at the center was about 675 in January 2010.
Tarleton, which is part of the Texas A&M University System, began offering courses at the Southwest Metroplex Center on Camp Bowie Boulevard in 2005. Two years later, programs offered there were boosted with new courses. The growth in academic offerings has continued with more majors, Holloway said. For example, the center now offers degrees in social work, family and consumer science, and computer science.
The center also caters to a demand by adult learners for programs that allow them to fold some of their professional experience into their degree plans.
"That's a huge part of our boom," Holloway said, explaining that a bachelor of applied arts and science lets police officers use their professional training hours toward a degree in criminal justice.
Tonya Forrester, a mother of two high school students and two college students, commutes from Weatherford to Fort Worth for classes in education. She has classes Mondays and Wednesdays and does many assignments online. The center was a good fit for her she said.
"I wanted to be a mom; that was my first priority," Forrester said. "Now, Mom can go back and finish her education."
Last year, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board gave the Fort Worth facility "single institution center" status, which provides it a more permanent standing.
Tarleton has offered programs in its department of clinical laboratory science in Fort Worth since 1978.
Diane Smith, 817-390-7675