More students pursuing higher education in New Braunfels

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With a growing local job market and expanding local collegiate opportunities, Ben Martin, assistant vice president of the Howard Payne University New Braunfels Center located at 4012 Loop 337, said more residents are opting to complete postsecondary education close to home.

According to Martin the school has seen a demographic shift during the past few years.

“The average age is changing,” he said.

Martin estimates about 25 percent of HPU’s students are in the 18-24 traditional college age range, and about one-third are dual-credit students who are home-schooled or attend smaller academies. HPU also has a dual-credit partnership with New Braunfels Christian Academy.

“We want to have an educational impact in Comal County and in the surrounding areas, and because we are smaller at the moment we can be more flexible and attuned to what the community does need,” Martin said.

Wayland Baptist University, located at 1672 Independence Drive, Ste. 150, New Braunfels, is among 13 of the system’s international campuses. With an average student age of 35, the campus sees a non-traditional student majority.

“I have people in their early 30s who tell me they’re too old,” said Carl Beard, WBU site coordinator and academic adviser. “Or people in their 60s who feel uncomfortable like they don’t fit in. Especially in New Braunfels, we have a pretty good mix of age.”

Beard said the most popular program at WBU is the nursing program that was launched in 2016, which currently enrolls 28 students.

“There’s a high demand for nurses, and not just nursing personnel,” Beard said. “We offer the Bachelor of Science in nursing. We are at a 100 percent pass rate for the RN licensure test.”

Alamo Colleges presence

According to school officials, San Antonio-based Alamo Colleges plays a significant role in New Braunfels’ higher education opportunities.

The Central Texas Technology Center, an Alamo Colleges satellite campus located at 2189 FM 758, New Braunfels, offers academic and technical training at its location near the New Braunfels Regional Airport.

According to Director Janice Roth, CTTC began offering technical training in 2004 to accommodate the region’s manufacturing industry. An arts and science wing was added in 2016. Some of the school’s most popular offerings include the licensed vocational nursing program, welding and completing college basics.

Alamo Colleges is also instrumental in giving students a head start while still in high school.

The institution provides Comal ISD students the opportunity to obtain a high school diploma and an associate’s degree simultaneously through the district’s Memorial Early College High School.

New Braunfels ISD also has a partnership with Alamo Colleges that offers the opportunity for students to complete the Alamo Academy, a two-year program that includes a summer internship.

Looking to the future

New Braunfels High School also offers on-site technical training its College and Career Center.

Rachel Behnke, director of career and technical education at NBHS, said students are placed in specialized curricula under 10 umbrellas—agriculture/manufacturing; arts and audiovisual; automotive technology; business, finance and marketing; education and training; engineering; health science; human services; information technology; and law enforcement.

Angie Salgado, an NBHS senior, has received a head start on a dental career through health occupations training. She said she envisions her future in New Braunfels after attending the University of Texas at San Antonio.

“I don’t really want to go far from home, and I see New Braunfels is really growing a lot, and I think right now is really the best opportunity to stay here and try to make my own company and try to do my own thing here,” Salgado said.

By being exposed to different careers, students sometimes determine the path they have chosen may not be the best fit for them.

“At first I wanted to be a psychologist, and I took classes on that,” Salgado said. “But then I found out that it really wasn’t the thing I wanted to do. Then I found out about dentistry, and learning about it kind of came naturally to me, and I was interested in it, and I wanted to keep learning about it.”

Behnke praises the support the district receives at a local level and said the school works to build partnerships with community organizations and businesses while helping students make professional connections.

“We’ve got a girl right now working with the New Braunfels Police Department, so that’s where she goes to class because she is completing her practicum there,” Behnke said.

Growing services

With an increasing demand for higher education, and Roth hopes to raise awareness about CTTC.

“People don’t know we’re here, and the name is misleading,” Roth said.

CTTC plans to expand, and child development and medical billing and coding programs on the radar. A recent addition is a culinary arts program that will be offered through a partnership with the New Braunfels Food Bank. It is made possible through a grant from the Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training Program, so many participants will not have to pay, Roth said.

HPU also has plans to expand, with a new campus planed in the upcoming Veramendi development on Loop 337. However, a timeline has not been set.

“We’re still having internal conversations of what that looks like,” Martin said. “A lot of dominoes have to fall before our conversations start to heat up.”

HPU offers four bachelor’s degree programs in Christian studies, criminal justice, business and general studies. A Master of Business Administration can also be obtained by completing 36 graduate hours, Martin said.

“We’re constantly having conversations between us and [the HPU]Brownwood headquarters about what does the next degree look like?” Martin said. “… With [growth]there’s always strains on the needs for teachers and aides—just the education system whether that being private, public or charter education. I think that’s been a conversation for us is what does the education gap look like, and how can we help fill that?”

As the institutaion expands, Martin said he hopes to see HPU remain a tight-knit community.

“I just hope we don’t lose that connection with students as we grow,” Martin said. “… There’s always going to be the challenge of losing that connection as you add more and more students.”

At WBU, Beard said many options are being explored for added educational opportunities.

“I don’t foresee something like a big engineering facility being added on, but we can add programs like counseling, education—things like that, that we already have the groundwork and structure for,” Beard said.

Beard encourages those who have attended college in the past to revisit their higher education endeavors.

“Even credits from 15 years ago count,” Beard said. “You may be closer to a degree than you think. Even if you don’t come to Wayland, you need to be motivated to go to school because that could [make]a difference in promotions and even personal goals.”

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Rachel Nelson
Rachel Nelson is editor of the New Braunfels edition of Community Impact Newspaper. She covers local business, new development, city and county government, health care, education and transportation. Rachel relocated to Central Texas from Amarillo in 2009 and is a graduate of Texas State University's School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
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