Tarleton’s expansion: too big, too fast?

By Kiley Widmann, Caleb McCaig, Trevor Peele & Rafael Sanchez – 

Tarleton State University is one of the faster growing institutions in the state of Texas. As students here over the past few years, we have all seen the university grow steadily. The university has implemented the “2020 Plan” which is a guide that describes the plans of university growth through the year 2020. The plan includes the destruction and new construction of buildings on campus, real-estate purchases and a growing enrollment. The university hit the 10,000 student mark in the fall semester of 2012 and plans to grow from there. Tarleton has kept acceptance rates high as part of the plan for growth; however, graduation rates are low and the university has even eliminated certain fields of study, narrowing student options.

Tarleton is planning to double enrollment over the next eight years, acquire more real estate, and build new buildings or reconstruct old ones. Ironically, Tarleton is also implementing a plan to eliminate many majors slowly over the next few years. Engineering and physics are no longer available to new students as a major. Current students in these majors are being allowed to finish the remaining classes they need before it is removed from the school curriculum. However, many are asking why would Tarleton discontinue two very popular majors if the school wants to expand enrollment and the campus?

Mrs. Townes, director of Transition and Student Life said, “I like the idea of the 2020 plan. It’s expanding Tarleton as well as giving it a great look and making it more eye appealing.”

We question, how is appearance relevant? “When potential students come to visit Tarleton it looks good now, but the campus could seem small. With the increase year by year with students it’s just best to expand campus and make it bigger to accommodate to the student body,” Townes said.

The student body is growing pretty fast; is it growing too fast too soon? “I don’t think it’s growing too fast, it might be a little easier to get into here than Texas A&M but it’s on track as a growing school,” Townes said.

It appears the “2020 Plan” intends to rapidly expand Tarleton as quickly as humanly possible. With lower admittance standards, Tarleton is rejecting fewer low quality students and quickly boosting its enrollment. More enrolled students means more funding that will further the expansion of Tarleton’s campus. Many programs have been cut; for example, the physics research program no longer exists and physics is now merely a required course of academia. Instead of beautifying the campus, why doesn’t the board focus on improving academics, an effort that will attract higher quality students and instructors? A higher graduation rate is better than a beautified campus.

Ultimately, we are for campus expansion, but not at the rate that the board is promoting. We believe Tarleton is being pushed to expand faster than a university should. If done correctly, Tarleton has the potential to grow into a Division One University; if it is expanded too quickly, there could be an overflow worse than the one we are currently experiencing: too many students and not enough resources.

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