As the Central Texas region grows, local higher education officials say they are working to expand program and course offerings to address changing workforce needs.

The overview

Local officials representing higher education institutions met Sept. 26 to discuss the state of higher education in the Round Rock area at Kalahari Resorts and Conventions as part of a Round Rock Chamber luncheon.

In a conversation moderated by Bryan Daniel, chair of the Texas Workforce Commission, the following speakers met to discuss the climate of higher education and future plans for their institutions:
  • Julie Lessiter, vice president of Texas State University-Round Rock
  • Russell Lowery-Hart, chancellor of Austin Community College
  • Michael Smith, vice president of Texas State Technical College
  • Kevin Brown, associate dean of Texas A&M School of Medicine-Round Rock
Lessiter, who was named the campus' first vice president in June, shared that her goal is to grow the student population to 10,000 by 2030. The student population is just over 1,800, she said. To achieve this, the university will expand its academic programming to include additional degrees and pathways, supporting local workforce needs in areas such as health sciences.

The details

As the area experiences a growing demand for workers with training in health sciences, electrical and manufacturing fields, all four speakers shared that their institutions are working to address these shifting needs. At ACC, Lowery-Hart said the community college system is working on bond-funded initiatives to improve and expand its facilities and programming, which may include additional courses in technology, welding, automotive and health care as well as advanced manufacturing.

At Texas A&M, Brown said the medical school will continue to partner with local K-12 institutions to ensure students are being given the opportunity to steer themselves down medical pathways that allow them to work in the Austin area starting with their second year of medical school.

Ongoing expansions funded by additional state funding are fueling expansions of TSTC campuses across the state, Smith said. At the Williamson County campus in Hutto, he said the trades school is pouring energy into job training for veterans.