Monday, January 23, 2006

Debating A&M- San Antonio

During the municipal races in 2005, it was when, not if. Working with the Edgewood ISD, it was when, not if. Now, it is if, when, how much, for what purpose, is this is a good idea… and the questions continue to mount.

The Express-News has the full details but the back and forth seems silly. Small business is having a hard time in the south side of the city, education numbers are the lowest there, and the benefits of a state accredited university will help the Toyota plant and the city.

Thirty years ago, critics questioned the need for a UTSA campus on the Northwest Side, he said. Today, that university has 27,000 students and is growing. Empty land that used to surround the campus now is abuzz with shopping, housing, businesses and restaurants.

Critics are comparing the current A&M plan to the one that happened in Kingsville years ago.

Mansour El-Kikhia, president of the UTSA faculty senate who also writes a weekly commentary for the San Antonio Express-News Op-Ed page, is not convinced by A&M's arguments.

If you want to bring in a competitor, we don't mind competition," El-Kikhia said. "At least bring a campus worth competing with. Bring me Johns Hopkins or Harvard. Not Texas A&M. It's a fourth-rate institution in Kingsville. Does anyone really believe it will be first-rate if it comes to San Antonio?"

Critics say students have not shown much of an appetite for the A&M-Kingsville System Center so far, and lawmakers have passed bills to drop the enrollment requirement for system centers — a way of determining whether there is enough demand to support a new, stand-alone campus.

This is just a stupid argument. San Antonio is one of the largest cities in the nation. It is seeing unimaginable growth north of 410, and city resources are not being allocated quickly enough to manage the education and water needs of the whole city, let alone half of it. Kingsville… well… it’s not.

A&M boosters are aware UTSA is struggling to meet demand. UTSA President Ricardo Romo has said enrollment will hit 40,000 within 10 years. Last year, the university turned away students for the first time, sending them to community colleges to take care of basic classes before they could be admitted.

In addition, population growth in the region suggests the number of 18-to-24-year-old Hispanics in Bexar County is expected to increase by about 10,000 from 2005 to 2015 — from 100,804 to 110,164, according to the Texas State Data Center.

Education is a good thing, and putting a university in the south part of the city will move the center of the city away from Northstar Mall and closer to downtown. It will spread out the resources of the city and it will imrpove the quality of life for everyone.

A&M has begun partnering with the East Central, Southside and Southwest independent school districts on programs they hope will improve student performance and increase high school graduation and college attendance. The program focuses on teacher development, mentoring, and parental involvement.

In a time when the legislature can’t fix public education for our public schools, maybe A&M-San Antonio will raise standards in the south part of the city, maybe it will improve the economy, maybe it will do as much good in the south as UTSA did in the north. Or maybe, it won’t be built at all because a few naysayers can’t think outside of the box and see the positive impact this campus will have on the entire city.


At 9:09 AM, Blogger dksbook said...

I think it's a matter of nomenclature. Texas A&M Kingsville? We've gotta get the Kingsville out of the name, and just call it A&M San Antonio, or Alamo A&M, or San Antonio Tech or something else. (I think bringing Johns Hopkins into it is a damn huge stretch, though.) Kingsville???? WTF???

When our son was doing his sport at Palo Alto, it seemed so desolate on the South Side to us - the only place to get something to eat adjacent was Church's, and the campus at night was not as safe as it should be. The buildings are not well-built, the place was just not user-friendly. Even the staff seemed surly and unhappy. We spent 4 nights a week there for 2 years, and it just seemed to get a little worse all the time. It just gave the vibe of a half-assed effort to seem like Texas cares about the South Side, but it was clear Texas didn't much care.

I hope Toyota changes that, but it seems a shame to me that it is a Japanese company that will make the difference. It should have been Texas companies that led the development on the South Side.


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