Texas A&M University-Central Texas took another major step last week.
With the announcement that it had been granted accreditation separate from its former parent university, Tarleton State University, the Killeen campus officially became a full-fledged, stand-alone university.
As Texas A&M-Central Texas’ president, Mark Nigliazzo, rightly noted, this was an exceptional accomplishment for a university that has only been in existence since 2009. Accredited member status is something the university had been seeking from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges for four years.
Now that it has separate accreditation, A&M-Central Texas will have more flexibility to expand its programs and course offerings, helping the university to tailor its mission to the educational needs of the community and region.
Central Texas College and its students stand to benefit as well. As CTC Chancellor Tom Klincar pointed out, the accreditation will advance cooperation and coordination between the two institutions. With more CTC courses earning credit at A&M-Central Texas, students at the community college will be able to transfer more easily on their path to four-year or advanced degrees.
Looking ahead, the university is considering adding degree plans in a variety of areas, possibly including nursing and bioscience. With the Texas Bioscience Institute already offering quality education to area high school students from its Temple campus, the addition of a bioscience degree plan at Texas A&M-Central Texas would be a tremendous addition for the region. And with Texas A&M College of Medicine’s strong presence at Scott & White and Metroplex hospitals — along with CTC’s highly regarded nursing program — adding an upper-level degree plan in nursing would seem to be a natural fit as well.
Its proximity to Fort Hood also affords the university an opportunity to become an outstanding research institution over time, while providing quality higher education to Fort Hood soldiers and their families.
Considering it’s only been a year since the university opened the doors to its first building on the new Texas A&M University-Central Texas campus, the school’s progress has been impressive. In addition to the university’s main building — the 103,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art Founder’s Hall — a second, four-story building is rising on the scenic campus south of Killeen, with completion scheduled in time for the fall 2014 semester. The new building will allow the university to consolidate its campus, as it currently operates a satellite facility at the former Fairway Middle School in north Killeen.
Meanwhile, enrollment has risen to nearly 2,500 students — up from almost 2,200 students when the university opened in August 2009 in the former Tarleton State University-Central Texas building on Clear Creek Road.
The university’s growth is even more impressive, considering that almost exactly six years ago, Gov. Rick Perry vetoed a bill that would have authorized funding for construction of a Texas A&M University campus in Killeen. Fortunately, legislators, including Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock of Killeen and Sen. Troy Fraser of Horseshoe Bay, were persistent in their efforts, and the governor signed similar legislation in 2009 — just weeks after the U.S. Army transferred 672 acres of land to the Texas A&M University System to build the campus.
In the four years since creation of the stand-alone, upper-level university was authorized, the school passed several key milestones. It hired and inaugurated its first president in Nigliazzo, it opened a new campus, it entered into partnership agreements with CTC and Temple College, and adopted school colors and a mascot — the Warrior.
Since opening as Texas A&M-Central Texas in 2009, the university has graduated almost 2,350 students — quite an accomplishment for a fledgling institution. With a permanent campus and independent accreditation, the university is well positioned to become a dynamic force for educational and economic opportunity in the region.
As the university moves forward, it’s important to recognize the administrators, faculty and staff members who have helped to bring the institution to this important point in its brief history. It’s also appropriate to offer our thanks to the legislators and civic leaders who foresaw the need for the university and dedicated themselves to making its establishment a reality.
While it may be a relatively new institution, Texas-A&M University-Central Texas has already had a major impact on our community. It’s an economic, educational and cultural impact that’s sure to benefit Central Texans for decades to come.