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Board of Regents question projections

Board of Regents question projections

The University Of North Texas System Board of Regents. Pictured above (left-right): Don Potts, Gwyn Shea, Brint Ryan, Milton Lee, Al Silva, Rudy Reynoso, Mike Bradford, Glen Whitley, Steve Mitchell, Rusty Reid. Photo courtesy of North Texas System Board Of Regents.

Board of Regents question projections
March 03
03:48 2016

Lisa Dreher | Staff Writer

@lisa_dreher97

Administrators at UNT have projected that by 2020, about 40,000 students will be enrolled at the main campus. But last week, the Board of Regents was skeptical of those projections and questioned UNT president Neal Smatresk and others.

Vice president for enrollment Shannon Goodman offered the numbers during the regents meeting on Thursday. Regent Al Silva refused to accept the estimate as realistic because of Texas’ rapidly growing population.

“It’s just a matter of whether this nominal growth number is really going to fit the needs of this region of our state,” Silva said.

Smatresk said the projected increase in growth exceeds the amount it was five years ago. He said the enrollment for 2011 was 36,000 and is currently about 37,000.

“I think that by any standard, you would argue that our estimates of our market share are very aggressive compared to the other estimates,” Smatresk said.

Regent chairman Brint Ryan felt the projected numbers did not add up, adding they fell short of UNT System’s aim to expand.

“With all due respect, how is it a big, hairy audacious goal if we only expect to achieve slightly more than our fair share of that growth in the first place?” Ryan asked. “If populations are growing at twice the rate of people eligible to graduate, as a developed country, we’re in trouble.”

Smatresk said, as it is, UNT can support 40,000 students, but lacks federal funding for additional buildings. But Silva dismissed his claim that the state refuses to fund university expansion.

“If you need more infrastructure, obviously we didn’t get you 36,000 [students] by not building buildings,” Silva said. “You almost have the money in your budget, because the state will pay for it.”

Smatresk said he wants the graduate population to increase so the university improves in research efforts to produce more master and doctoral students.

Silva was frustrated with the regents because he said they lacked a plan to increase this research, something Smatresk and his administration have pushed for, and in some ways, achieved – the university was recently given tier-one recognition in research output.

UNT chancellor Lee Jackson suggested focusing instead on recruitment to compensate for Texas’ increasing population.

“What would it take to set 45,000 as a goal instead of 42,000 for UNT in the next ten years?” Jackson said. “Maybe it involves diverting resources from research into classroom capacity.”

Featured Image: The University Of North Texas System Board of Regents. Courtesy | North Texas System Board Of Regents

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