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Texas A&M-Central Texas Campus Sought

By J. Lyn Carl, GalleryWatch.com

Austin, TX –

Central Texans seeking a stand-alone, upper-level graduate university for their area are swarming the State Capitol today seeking support for legislation that would allow for creation of a Texas A&M-Central Texas campus on land at Fort Hood that will be donated by the federal government.

John Crutchfield, president of the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce, said creation of that campus is his organization's top legislative priority this session. Legislation carried by Sen. Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay) and Rep. Sid Miller (R-Stephenville) address the student enrollment requirements for operation of a TAMU-Central Texas campus and the authorization of revenue bonds for such an institution.

At a press conference today, Fraser said Tarleton State University System Center in Killeen provides a "much needed educational opportunity" for the 750,000 who live in and around Central Texas and the Bell County area. However, he said there was no public upper-level higher education opportunity within a one-hour drive before the 75th Legislature created the Tarleton campus at Killeen.

That effort was successful, said Fraser, thanks to huge donations and assets from the Killeen community - representing more than $6.5 million. "Now it's time for the state of Texas to step in and do their part," he said, by offering financial support. As Fort Hood grows, with some 5,000 additional soldiers in 2006 and the military support that comes with it, the educational needs also will grow. Fraser said these military families deserve to have educational opportunities.

Fraser said his SB 156 addresses tuition revenue bonds to build buildings on 600 acres being deeded for that purpose by the U.S. Army. SB 157, he noted, would provide for a stand-alone, higher level university. "This is a very, very important step," said Fraser.

Rep. Dianne Delisi (R-Temple) said this venture fits in with Governor Rick Perry's plan to graduate more baccalaureate degree-holders in Texas, and also fits in with the Closing the Gaps effort to provide a "seamless system" for every student in Texas "to realize there is another opportunity for them when they finish high school." She said there should be a place for them in higher education in Central Texas.

Citing a "burgeoning" population among community colleges in Central Texas and a growing population at Fort Hood, Delisi said a stand-alone university in Central Texas fits in perfectly with the governor's charge on baccalaureate degrees, with the House Speaker and lieutenant governor's charges on Closing the Gaps and also meets the needs of the demographics of the state.

The Temple Republican noted that Tarleton at Killeen registers "the most diverse population of any school in the A&M system," noting it will be a "great day when the ribbon is cut" for a stand-alone university in Central Texas.

Miller touted the assistance of the Killeen community in this effort. He said more than $6 million in cash was donated and that is "really what made this happen."

The community has done its part, he said, and Fort Hood has made property available for a university. He said more than one million people in Central Texas have not had services within 100 miles of a state university. Because there has not been available space, most students in the area "can't go to class until after 4 p.m. or after the sun sets." Miller said proponents of the legislation that would lead to creation of a stand-alone university are asking the state to "step up and do the final piece of the puzzle."