By Matt Flores
SAN MARCOS—As colleges and universities struggle with shrinking budgets and increasing enrollment, business and community leaders from San Antonio to Austin must step up their investment in higher education for the region to successfully train its future work force, a panel of education leaders said here Friday.
“Our growth has been based not on minerals or cattle, but on human capital,” said Mark Yudof, chancellor of the University of Texas System, one of several speakers discussing the state of higher education at the Greater Austin-San Antonio Corridor Council regional conference.
The council, a public-private partnership representing 50 political jurisdictions and 130 businesses in the region, is dedicated to long-range infrastructure and economic development. The daylong conference, treating topics such as business and transportation as well as higher education, drew about 800 participants.
Presidents from three regional universities agreed that institutions must rely heavily on community support, philanthropy and business relationships to help offset dwindling state resources, which are badly needed to keep up with fast growth.
Ricardo Romo, president of the University of Texas at San Antonio, noted that his college benefited greatly from a partnership with Lackland AFB’s computer security program. Together, the entities landed a $3 million federal grant to expand the program.
Still, he added, the university must forge more relationships with community leaders who will be champions for them to lure more resources.
“There are still some people not embracing us,” Romo said.
Denise Trauth, president of Southwest Texas State University, said the San Antonio-Austin corridor, with about 190,000 higher education students, is experiencing rapid growth and must have additional space for educating a wave of students over the next decade.
To help meet the state's challenge of enrolling 500,000 more higher education students by 2015, SWT, a school of about 25,000 students today, would need to increase its enrollment to 40,000, Trauth said.
Jake Schrum, president of Southwestern University in Georgetown, also took part in the conference.
UTSA, already considered one of the most space-deficient campuses in Texas, is about seven years ahead of its enrollment projections. With more than 22,000 students, it could reach the 30,000-student threshold in as few as four years, Romo said.