Council looks to attract university to build business, expand options

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Frisco City Council plans to expand higher education opportunities this year, and doing so may come in the form of a four-year university building a permanent campus in Frisco.

Council compiles a list of priorities every year for the city.  This year council included expanding higher education opportunities as one of its priorities.

Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney said one of the first questions he receives from companies and executives that are either in Frisco or planning to relocate to Frisco is what higher educational opportunities are available for the workforce.

“As we’re moving into this era of our build-out, we’re really going after corporate relocations and developing our jobs here,” Cheney said. “And having higher educational opportunities is a critical component to achieving this goal.”

A new campus in Frisco could allow for more research that would improve and increase the business community in Frisco, Cheney said.

Helping grow business

Cheney said council wants to have a strategic focus to grow higher education opportunities in Frisco to help attract more companies and people to the city.

Cheney said along with the rest of the priorities, the city is working toward not only bringing a four-year university campus to Frisco but to bring master’s degree-level programming with a research component, Cheney said.

“Research is going to be very big in Frisco’s future, and universities help bring that into our community, making that connection between the business community and a university,” Cheney said.

Universities are usually required to develop intellectual property and receive patents through research, and Cheney said if a university were to build a campus in Frisco, the business community could help convert those ideas into business uses.

“That’s the direction we’re going to try to attract that kind of higher educational opportunity here that can add to our business community so that intellectual property can be created not only in Frisco, but be partnered with the private sector to build businesses here,” Cheney said.

Cheney pointed out the work the University of North Texas has done to connect students with the business community.

UNT opened its satellite campus in Hall Park in 2016, called New College at Frisco. The satellite campus offers a range of degree programs from a bachelor’s degree in sports management to a Master of Business Administration in marketing analytics. Students receive hands-on learning and mentoring from experts in the community.

Bringing in a university campus also attracts more students to the area, which would increase the talent pool in the area not only for companies but also for retail and restaurant businesses, Cheney said.

“One of the issues we do hear from the business community is we need to increase the access to the talent pool in Frisco for service jobs,” he said. “If we were to add more students here and they were looking for employment, that could help service those needs as well.”

As far as providing student housing or affordable housing for potential college students, Cheney said that is still to be determined.

“Those decisions will certainly be driven by the market as far as what kind of campus will potentially be built here and how many students there are,” he said. “But it is definitely our goal to have access to advanced degrees and curriculum [in Frisco].”

Another option for students

The city has never had a permanent four-year university campus. Currently, the higher education options in Frisco are the UNT New College at Frisco, Collin College-Preston Ridge campus and Amberton University, a private institution designed for students who already completed some college coursework.

Frisco ISD students also have options to pursue higher education while in high school. For several years FISD students have had the opportunity to take dual-credit classes at Collin College, in which they earn both high school and college credit.

Also, through the district’s Career and Technical Education Center, students are offered more than 30 programs of study, including health science, information technology, hospitality and tourism and agriculture and construction. Through these programs the district partners with nearby companies to provide students with real-world experiences.

According to the Naviance College matriculation reports, in 2017 some of the most popular colleges FISD students attended after high school were Collin College, University of Texas at Dallas and UNT.
According to FISD officials, another four-year university in the area would strengthen students’ post-secondary experience.

“Students who desire to leave the Metroplex do it for different reasons, but I do know that kids that grow up in the Frisco area or even the Dallas-Fort Worth area, it’s hard to leave because there’s so much opportunity here,” said Stephanie Cook, FISD director of guidance and counseling. “I think the benefit of having a four-year university in the area, because of all the industry in Frisco, I think our students are most likely to utilize those opportunities.”

UNT also partners with Collin College to offer programs at the Collin College Higher Education Center in McKinney, at which students take classes to go toward earning a baccalaureate degree from the university. Collin College partners with several other universities as well.

UNT spokesperson Kelley Reese said the university is committed to serving Frisco and Collin County and is responding to the growth in the area.

“We’ve seen rapid increase in enrollment at our facilities, and we are excited about the obvious interest by the people of Frisco and Collin County for higher education opportunities with UNT,” Reese said. “We are interested in meeting the needs in Frisco and Collin County, and anticipate being able to respond as things change out there.”

In a September 2015 Community Impact Newspaper article about the opening of the satellite campus in Frisco, UNT President Neal Smatresk said UNT would consider plans to build a permanent campus in Frisco pending the success of the  satellite campus.

“We know there are a lot of tech companies, we know it’s one of the fastest-growing regions, and we feel like we’re the institution of choice in North Texas, and we ought to have a footprint there,” Smatresk said.

Currently, UNT officials say that the university is continuing to explore possibilities in the future in Frisco and Collin County.

At Collin College, students can earn an associate degree in different subjects, and the college is working to offer a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Collin College Executive Vice President Brenda Kihl said if a public university were to open a campus in Frisco, it would be another opportunity for Collin College students.

“There would a lot of transferability and affordability of courses from a community college to a public four-year institution in Texas, so it would be very beneficial [for our students],” Kihl said. “Seventy percent of students that start at Collin intend to transfer to a four-year university, so I think that will give Collin students opportunities to transfer closer to their home if they live in Collin County and in particular Frisco.”

Clarence Williams, FISD’s area director for secondary instruction and curriculum, said the school district strives to give their students a post-secondary experience through partnerships with the business community as well as Collin College and UNT.

“Some of the things we have done [through our partnerships]is create a seamless pathway for students to earn an associates degree so they’re not waiting until they finish high school to have a post-secondary experience,” Williams said.

Williams said that another four-year university in the area would only increase options for students.

“Having universities partner with area businesses and industries would be a significant addition to the experiences that our students could have to enhance employment,” Williams said. “Our ultimate goal is for students to earn a great living and have a great career, and I can’t think of a better environment to do that in than in an area with growing industries.”

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Nicole Luna is the Senior Reporter for Frisco. She covers development, transportation, education, business and city government. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Spanish from The University of Texas at Arlington and has been with Community Impact Newspaper since June 2015.
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