Transformative higher education to serve a thriving state

We are privileged to live in a state with growth opportunities on all fronts. Simply meeting today’s demand for a career-ready workforce will not be enough to sustain our economic advantage. It is more important than ever to prepare college students to become highly skilled professionals who can lead Texas into a future of even more significant impact.

That vision requires increased options for world-class higher education for Texans of all backgrounds and at any stage of life — whether they are recent high school graduates, transfer students from two-year colleges, working professionals or those simply seeking knowledge. Transformative higher education experiences should not be limited to a select group of students, but to all who seek it and have the vision and motivation to benefit from access to education of the highest level of excellence.

Concerns regarding admissions, affordability and job prospects after graduation should not limit what Texas students envision for their lives. To continue our growth trajectory, higher education in Texas should not be a one-size-fits-all model. For example, our society tends to view the journey of transferring from a two-year college to a four-year institution as a less than ideal option, as a symbol of a failed Plan A. Instead, we should view the transfer experience as a pathway for students looking to complete their education in a way that fits their lives, their responsibilities and their goals.

In an age of rapid technological convergence, where information and knowledge are growing at exponential rates and population demographics are changing rapidly, we have a critical responsibility to clear the path for students from all walks of life to advance their education and contribute their intellectual capital to improve the region, state and nation. Embracing higher education as the “great equalizer” requires all of us to ensure that access to knowledge is provided to the widest population possible, without compromising excellence in academia or research.

For far too long, there has been a lingering perception that a less selective admissions model cannot go hand-in-hand with academic and research excellence. The University of Texas at Arlington is a leading example of how this can be achieved at a single institution. 

In 2009, when the Texas Legislature enacted House Bill 51 into law with a focus on developing more national research universities in the state to foster economic development, UTA embarked on a journey to meet all of the criteria necessary to become a tier one research institution. We have pursued this designation without sacrificing our unwavering commitment to serve and educate the North Texas region and its people. Today, we are at the cusp of becoming Texas’ next tier one institution — a designation that would both cement our position as one of the nation’s leading research universities and help attract further talent and economic growth to the state.

First, to become a tier one research institution, we have dedicated resources to impactful research initiatives — presenting bold solutions for important challenges of this and future generations. In addition, we have recruited world-class faculty from some of the most prestigious universities in the country to augment the teachers/scholars already at UTA. Recognized as a Carnegie R1: Very High Research Institution, a group of the top 131 national research universities, UTA has among its faculty some of the very best in the world across all of its eight schools and colleges. This includes 15 fellows of the National Academy of Inventors — the most of any Texas university. Additionally, more than 200 UTA doctoral students are engaged in impactful projects that support our role as a leading research institution.

As one of the most diverse college campuses in the United States and one of the fastest-growing, we are ensuring access and excellence in ways that are tailored for the students we serve. Designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), UTA is also among the top two universities in the nation for transfer students. We are providing pipelines and pathways for all Texans to gain from the promise of education by forming strong and unique partnerships with high schools and two-year colleges. More African-American students graduate with a bachelors or master’s degree from UTA than any other Texas institution — and we are the first in the state for the most minority master’s graduates overall. In addition to being designated a Purple Heart University, UTA is also ranked No. 1 in Texas and No. 7 in the nation for service to veterans.

These achievements, combined with nationally ranked academic programs and increasing student success measures, demonstrate UTA’s transformative impact for Texas and its people. Concerted efforts from our faculty and staff to improve the overall student experience have resulted in an increase of 45 percent in degrees conferred over the last five years. 

After graduation, our alumni contribute $20.7 billion and more than 195,000 jobs to the Texas economy. Beyond producing the workforce of the future, we are preparing leaders who will determine the future of the workforce across every industry and sector.

As an emerging research university and the state’s next tier one institution, we are committed to consistently improving to better serve the citizens of Texas. In response to the growing needs of Texas, UTA is poised to become a model 21st-century urban research university, where research and innovation align with access to the highest levels of excellence in education. Everything that we do is in the service of Texas and its people, as we ensure that talented individuals are always provided with a means to shine with the opportunities afforded by the promise of higher education.  

A Carnegie R-1 institution, The University of Texas at Arlington is a growing research powerhouse serving more than 60,000 students through its on-campus and online degree programs. As an educational leader in the heart of the thriving North Texas region, the university nurtures minds within an environment that values excellence, innovation, and diversity. UTA is meeting the needs of Texas with bold solutions to some of the most important challenges of this and future generations — creating lasting global impact.