Officials say collaboration is key

Higher education and drawing a four-year university to the community has been on the city of Frisco's radar for more than a decade.

Collin College's Preston Ridge campus along with Amberton University help to fill the higher education gap in Frisco, but comments during the city's ongoing effort to update its comprehensive plan suggest securing a university is still on citizens' wish lists. City Development Director John Lettelleir said the subject of securing a traditional university first came up for discussion in the early 2000s during a joint visioning session between Frisco City Council and city staff members.

"It's an idea that's out there and has been discussed. Where it goes, we're not sure just yet," Lettelleir said.

Collin College administrators have known for years that area residents desire more four-year degree options, said Brenda Kihl, Collin College provost for the Preston Ridge campus. The community college district conducts a community survey every two years. Several years ago the survey results revealed a unique and repetitive response.

"At the end there were open-ended questions, and about 10 percent of the people would ask, 'When are you going to offer a baccalaureate degree?'" Kihl said.

Lettelleir said there are a lot of questions about drawing a university that the city does not yet have the answers for such as: What kind of site would an institution look for? Would it want to be located along a regional thoroughfare? What is important to the college in terms of the community? Lettelleir said he does not expect the updated comprehensive plan to include a potential future location for a university.

"The question is, do you identify a site for it, or just make a goal to pursue it?" he said. "Do you [earmark the property] and wait for something you might not get?"

Filling the higher-education gap

To help provide more baccalaureate programs to the area, Collin College created the Collin Higher Education Center in McKinney in 2010. At the center, four state universities partner with the college to provide several bachelor's and graduate degree programs for Collin College students.

Collin College also has agreements with several universities so students' courses will transfer from the college to another institution. Amberton University is one of the institutions with such an agreement.

Amberton University, which has a Frisco location, is a private institution marketed to older students seeking graduate degrees, has seen more students come from northern Texas counties in the last few years, university President Melinda Reagan said.

It is not surprising that other universities would be interested in tapping into Frisco's growing market, she said.

An impact on the city

Collaboration, such as creating an articulation agreement would be Collin College's No. 1 priority if a university came to the city, Kihl said.

"Two institutions shouldn't be working as silos," Kihl said. "Collaborating and partnering will help both the community college as well as the university that's in the area."

An institution could mean an opportunity for Amberton University to grow if a student transferred to pursue a degree at the private university, Reagan said. However, it could also increase competition in the area.

"You've got institutions from out of state coming into Texas almost every month, whether it's with online programs or different offerings," Reagan said. "The higher-education market is extremely competitive right now."

Frisco ISD students do have a lot of options in North Texas when it comes to higher education, though another traditional university would be helpful, said Brenda Berry, FISD's director of Guidance and Counseling.

A university in the city would allow FISD students to save money—a big concern for them—by living at home, she said.

However, Jon Kendall, who owns marketing and SEO company Osky Blue in Frisco, worries more college students living in the city would change Frisco's dynamics.

Kendall would like to see a university that offers a few degrees in a specific field, such as technology, if one were to come to the city.

"I wouldn't want it to be another community college where it's kind of a transient place, but [rather a place] where people come and focus on their career," he said.

Lettelleir said he could see Frisco drawing an institution like the University of Texas at Dallas or a college that focuses on business technology.

"We look at the businesses that the [Frisco Economic Development Corp. and Frisco Community Development Corp.] are attracting," he said. "It would be great if there was a college that would provide additional educational training opportunities."

Lettelleir said a new four-year college would be a great opportunity for both students and businesses.

"A college would provide a great place to exchange ideas and could lead to greater things, not only for existing businesses, but for growing businesses and creating new businesses," he said.