STEPHENVILLE — Tarleton State University President James Hurley recapped successes and shared his vision for invigorating tomorrows in his annual State of the University address Wednesday, calling 2020 a record-breaking year on all fronts.
He credited faculty and staff for their flexible, innovative response to COVID-19 and for moving spring and summer classes online — seemingly overnight — while simultaneously preparing for a safe face-to-face return in the fall.
He thanked students and parents for their patience and resilience, and he reminded the entire Tarleton family that “despite an unprecedented time for higher education, we are thriving; record enrollment numbers prove that Tarleton continues to be a destination of choice.”
Fall 2020 enrollment is up 6.5 percent with 14,033 students, and the incoming freshman class is up almost 10 percent from last year at 2,276. Enrollment at the Fort Worth campus is the largest ever, beating the number of students last year by 16.42 percent for a record 2,247.
More records: Tarleton boasts more than 5,000 students who report an ethnicity other than white — up 6 percent over 2019 and 70 percent over 2014. Of that number, more than 3,000 are Hispanic, bringing the university closer to its goal of official recognition as an Hispanic-serving institution. The number of African American students is up 6.47 percent from fall 2019.
For the first time, enrollment in graduate programs exceeds 2,000 — more than a 16 percent jump from last fall. Undergraduate numbers are up almost 4 percent.
Dr. Hurley said the institution’s move to NCAA Division I in July as a member of the Western Athletic Conference and the announcement of a second building on the Fort Worth campus are positioning Tarleton as a front-runner for anyone seeking a university education.
Construction of the $66 million, four-story building is set to begin in 2022, adding 106,000 square feet of classroom, laboratory, office and activity space, and elevating Tarleton’s nationally recognized education and healthcare programs.
“It is a very bright day at Tarleton,” he said. “The sky’s the limit as we continue our focus on student success and our commitment to meet the professional workforce needs of our region.”
Hurley announced construction plans for the Texas Center for Rural Research, Innovation and Economic Development, adjacent to Tarleton’s Southwest Regional Dairy Center off Highway 281, and groundwork is proceeding for the Convocation and Events Center, the Rodeo and Equestrian Center, and the Child Development Center in Stephenville as well as enhancements to the baseball/softball complex. “And we’re already looking ahead to our third building in Fort Worth.”
In addition to physical growth, Tarleton’s academic programs are on the rise with the launch of the school’s first PhD — a Doctor of Philosophy in Criminal Justice — expanded lab facilities in animal and plant sciences at the Agriculture Center, a new Engineering Building on the Stephenville campus, and approval by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for the university’s first master’s degree in engineering (computer engineering).
Noting that Tarleton’s engineering graduates are in high demand — enrollment has more than doubled since 2010 — the President announced that the School of Engineering will become a stand-alone college in 2022.
He also mentioned the rapid growth of the Texan Corps of Cadets to more than 120 strong since its reinstatement in 2016 and the recent creation of a Leadership and Military College. Tarleton is the only four-year university in the U.S. to implement a military college with a corps of cadets. Enrollment goal for the Leadership and Military College is 500 cadets by 2026.
“All of this is happening as we begin strategic planning for the next decade and prepare for reaffirmation by SACSCOC (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commissionon Colleges) — a process that will show, nearly 100 years after our first accreditation in 1926, that our mission continues to fit the needs of our students.”
As important as any of this, Dr. Hurley added, the university will soon launch the largest campaign in its history with a goal of raising $100 million to “expand access, opportunity and innovation for current and future Texans.”
To watch President Hurley’s 2020 State of the University, go to tarletonstate.us/2020SOTU.