UT Arlington Smashes Enrollment Record

How big is too big at North Texas' largest university?

Record growth at the University of Texas at Arlington is manageable now but cannot sustain itself much longer, administrators say.

UTA — a sprawling campus located in the heart of North Texas — is now home to 41,715 students. That's the most students in the school's history and a five-percent jump over last year.

It passed up the University of North Texas in Denton last year as the largest public university in North Texas.

The signs of the boom are everywhere.

A new science and engineering building is going up near Cooper Street and Nederman Drive.

A new 500-bed dormitory is under construction just a few blocks away.

For many, the growth is a selling point.

Freshman Hana Ali, from Arlington, said it's one of the reasons she decided to stay in her hometown.

"I wanted to be here," she said. "It's a growing community. I wanted to grow myself and it's the perfect place to do that."

Many classes are still small, and according to one measurement, the student population is the fifth most diverse in the country.

Administrators also say they are attracting gifted students.

"It's a terrific university. It's an urban university," said UTA President Vistasp Karbhari, rejecting old images of UTA being a sleepy commuter school.

He said students come for the solid education and affordable tuition.

But there are obvious questions about how much any school can adjust to such rapid growth.

Karbhari said the campus can keep it up for a while but acknowledged it can't go on forever without sacrificing quality.

"Where I sit right now, no, we're going to slow that growth as we go forward," he said.

Political science professor Allen Saxe, 78, has seen the changes since he started teaching at UTA in the mid-1960s.

"I mean, there will come a point when we say we need more teachers, we need more classrooms," he said. "But right now I think we're doing pretty well."

UTA started as Arlington College back in 1895. It was part of the A&M system for years before it switched to UT in 1965.

Students like Ali say they appreciate the growth and still feel personally valued.

"I want to stay here, because I really enjoy Arlington," she said. "It's such a great place to live and grow. I can see myself living here my whole life, and I'm OK with that."

Other large universities in North Texas also report record enrollments this semester.

At UNT, the student population is up to 38,121, and at the University of Texas at Dallas, it stands at 27,627.

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