‘It Allows Us to Dream Big:’ The Fastest Growing College in Texas Fills a Gap by Focusing on Homegrown Students

Nearly two decades ago, state Rep. Helen Giddings and state Sen. Royce West helped lay the groundwork for a new four-year university in the heart of southern Dallas. Seeing that dream come into focus, Giddings said, has been thrilling. On Monday, Giddings and West took part in the grand opening of the University of North Texas at Dallas' $63 million student center.“I could not be more excited,” Giddings said. “As I drove up today, I couldn’t even imagine this hill, this building and all the students, all the excitement when we started years ago.” The new 131,000-square foot building -- well-appointed with a new library and fitness center, and housing the school’s advising, tutoring and financial aid offices -- is yet another signpost that the university in southeast Oak Cliff is finding its way. UNT-Dallas boasts of one of the most diverse student bodies in Texas: 85% of its students are Latinx or African American, more than 70% of UNT-Dallas students are first-generation college students. Most come from middle- to low-income households, and most are from Dallas County. Enrollment at the school, which officially gained its independence as a four-year university in 2009, has topped 4,100 across its undergraduate and graduate programs for the first time. That growth has made the institution the fastest-growing public university in the state.“Now, we’re involved in the conversation in this city; we’re at the table,” UNT-Dallas President Bob Mong said. “It’s a very different era.”Collective willThat new era, in many ways, was sparked by Mong, hired as the university’s president in July 2015 after a 46-year career in journalism, including a long stint as editor of The Dallas Morning News.Since Mong’s arrival, UNT-Dallas has added 1,600 students, transitioning from a majority part-time student population to a younger, majority full-time undergraduate body. The number of graduates from its undergraduate and graduate programs also has increased from 475 in 2015 to 900 in the last school year.Such enrollment growth has propelled expansions in facilities, staff, and funding. In addition to the new student center, the university opened another building this summer -- a $71 million renovation of Dallas’ old City Hall for its burgeoning law school.   Continue reading...

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