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Carter seeks U.S. money for campus


American-Statesman (06/29/2003)
By Camille Wheeler

ROUND ROCK — U.S. Rep. John Carter is seeking $1 million from the federal government to help build a permanent home for the Round Rock Higher Education Center.

The money, which would supplement $27 million from the state government, would pay for equipment inside the facility’s first building and supplement teacher salaries, said Carter, R-Round Rock. Southwest Texas State University President Denise Trauth requested the federal help.

The campus is expected to help accommodate the additional 50,000 college students projected to be in Central Texas by 2015.

“ This adjunct campus will give folks, especially working folks, the opportunity to get a good education in Williamson County and Round Rock,” Carter said.

Trauth first asked Carter for federal money in a letter dated April 9. She wrote that the state projects an additional half-million college students in Texas by 2015. The University of Texas and Texas A&M University have exceeded capacity, and SWT is nearly full.

Carter said he has not yet received Trauth’s letter dated June 16 requesting an additional $3 million. That federal money would be used to build a second building.

“ If that’s part of what they want, we’ll try,” Carter said.

Chances are good that Congress will approve the $1 million appropriation, said Carter, who is discussing it with committee and subcommittee chairs. Carter said he has broached the subject with U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, who is on the Appropriations Committee.

Financing the facility is one of his highest local priorities, Carter said. “I’ll be staying on top of it,” he said. “I’m hopeful and prayerful about it.”

The state money, which will be issued through tuition revenue bonds, will pay for the construction of the first building. That’s not enough, though, to equip the building, Trauth said.

The facility was guaranteed $27 million in state funds during the recent legislative session. It is scheduled to open in fall 2005 on up to 100 acres of family farmland donated by lawyer John Avery, whose Swedish ancestors settled here in the mid-1800s. The tract is in northeastern Round Rock, near Chandler Road and FM 1460.

Mike Swayze, chairman of the Round Rock Higher Education Committee, said the group met Friday afternoon to discuss architectural and construction plans. The first building must be built by spring 2005 to be ready for a fall opening, Swayze said.

The committee might know next week when construction will start, he said.

Discussions about the second building would not officially begin until the 2005 state legislative session, Trauth said. State Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, predicts that the campus will have 5,000 students when it opens and 25,000 students in 10 to 15 years.

SWT, which will become Texas State University-San Marcos on Sept. 1, and Austin Community College will offer graduate and undergraduate degrees at the new campus. The higher education center has held classes in portable buildings at Westwood and Round Rock high schools since 1998.

This is a big undertaking, Trauth said, noting that all the players -- federal and state legislators, city and university officials and the Avery family -- form a complex puzzle.

Yet the pieces are falling into place, Trauth said: “I feel good about where we are.”

The next step for higher education officials, Swayze said, is addressing operational costs. “It’s no easy thing to start up a school,” he said.

But once that school opens, there will be significant demand, he said: “You see a building on the ground, and people are going to start wanting to go to school here.”