Legislation earmarks $27 million for permanent SWT-ACC facility
By Camille Wheeler
ROUND ROCK — Two bills awaiting Gov. Rick Perry’s signature could give the Round Rock Higher Education Center -- and possibly 5,000 students -- a $27 million permanent home by fall 2005.
On Friday, Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, agreed to Senate amendments to House Bill 2522, clearing its passage to the governor’s desk. Krusee’s bill now shares similar language with its companion, Senate Bill 1297, which also authorizes the issuance of almost $53 million in tuition revenue bonds for the University of North Texas System.
But what’s important to Central Texans is that both bills include language that guarantees $27 million for a permanent higher education campus in Round Rock.
Krusee and Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, wrote the bills specifically for the proposed Round Rock facility. Southwest Texas State University, which will become Texas State University-San Marcos if Perry approves a controversial name change, and Austin Community College would offer graduate and undergraduate degrees at the Round Rock campus. The school currently operates in portable buildings at Westwood and Round Rock high schools.
“It’s one of the most exciting things I’ve been involved in,” said Krusee, who predicts that the proposed campus will have 5,000 students when it opens and 25,000 students in 10 to 15 years, matching current enrollment at SWT.
Design and construction firms could be appointed as early as August, said SWT Finance Director Bill Nance.
The Texas State University System board of regents, which oversees SWT, has general bonding authority for its nine universities. The House has set aside about $4 million for principal and interest on the tuition revenue bonds.
Round Rock lawyer John Avery is donating up to 100 acres of family farmland in northeast Round Rock, near Chandler Road and FM 1460. The first building probably would be built on about 35 acres, with another 65 reserved for later development, Avery said.
“Once the governor’s ink is dry on that bill, everybody’s poised to move forward,” said Avery, who helped form a design and construction team.
Avery, who has spent the past six months studying architectural styles at more than 60 campuses, said he prefers a traditional look. He and two architects will present a concept theme to SWT officials.
SWT President Denise Trauth is excited about the prospects. “There are so many young people in Central Texas who need to go to college, and a lot of them are not going to come to San Marcos,” she said.
According to the state’s higher education plan, Texas will have an additional half-million college students by 2015, including 50,000 more in Central Texas.
The three largest public universities in Central Texas are bulging: The University of Texas, which has a target cutoff of 48,000, enrolled a record 52,273 students last fall. Texas A&M University’s enrollment of 45,083 was 83 students beyond its cutoff. And SWT, which does not have a cutoff, enrolled a record 25,065 students. Enrollment at the San Marcos university has grown 15 percent in the past four years.