By Natasha Allen - Hays and Caldwell County Bureau Chief
SWT CAMPUS — Southwest Texas State University is growing faster than expected. More than 25,000 students are enrolled this semester — 25,056 to be exact. That’s up more than 6 percent from last year.
“We had pretty much planned that we were going to be at about 26,000 in the year 2004, so we actually are increasing that number at a faster rate than what we had expected,” said Joanne Smith, SWT?s associate vice president of student affairs.
The reason? Students are coming back for more. “Our last two years, our retention rate for our first-year freshmen has been 74 percent, and we moved that up to 76 percent this year,” Smith said.
There are challenges with the growth, such as housing, actual classrooms, and class size.
“It’s been a struggle,? said Patrick Cassidy, the associate vice president of academic affairs. ?Last year, we had an issue that we had to deal with in our faculty salary to make up additional faculty salaries because of this growth.
As the university grows, the faces are changing ? and that’s good news. Minority students now make up 25 percent of the students attending SWT.
“You want the campus to simulate what the state of Texas looks like,? Smith said. ?So it’s important, I think, for students to see people who look like them, and for all students to be able to interact and be able to work in the workforce.”
Administrators said they’ve discussed an enrollment cap in the past, and that issue could come up again. As Cassidy put it, “We do have limitations with regard to space and what we can offer students, and how big a university do we want to be? When does the character of the university change?”
For now, the growth is good. But sooner or later, university officials will have to decide how large is too large.