As the nation’s fastest growing university, The University of Texas at Dallas continues to invest in its students, facilities and programming.

University President Richard Benson spoke on the state of UT Dallas at the March 2 City Council meeting. He kicked off his presentation by noting how far the university has come since its founding 50 years ago.

UT Dallas offers 141 academic programs across 8 schools. The fall 2019 semester saw a record-high enrollment of just under 30,000 students, which included the largest freshman class in university history.

To accommodate its growing population, the university is expanding its residential housing development Northside, which is located just north of campus off Synergy Boulevard. Phase 3 of construction is currently underway and will add 246 units and 370 beds.

Because UT Dallas is STEM-focused, it has the highest tuition of any public university in the state, Benson said. Roughly two-thirds of students receive some sort of financial assistance, he said.

“Access is an important thing for us because it changes the lives of our students and their children for generations to come,” he said.

One of the benefits of providing so much aid is that UT Dallas students have substantially less debt than those who graduate from other research-intensive universities, Benson said.

About 36% of UT Dallas students graduated with debt in 2018. The average amount was $23,921, which is significantly less than the nearly $40,000 average debt of a student at UT Austin, Benson said.

As a top-tier research university, UT Dallas continues to attract students looking to study engineering and computer science, Benson said. Other popular majors include finance management, behavioral and brain sciences, and digital arts.

In recent years, UT Dallas has gradually increased the money it puts toward research. University officials expect to spend $129.3 million on research in fiscal year 2020, which is more than double what it spent in fiscal year 2008.

The federal government has also contributed a significant amount of funding for research at UT Dallas, Benson said. The university expects to receive $58.8 million in federal research funding in FY 2020, a 62% increase since FY 2017.

Another way the university is investing in research is through partnering with UT Southwestern to create a joint biomedical engineering and science building in downtown Dallas’ Medical District. That facility has been funded and is currently in the planning phase, Benson said.

“This is a very significant development for us,” he said.

Benson concluded his presentation by touching on future opportunities to partner with the city of Richardson. He said he hopes the university will be a major player in the development of The Innovation Quarter, 1,200-acre industrial area east of Central Expressway where city leaders hope to create the “premier tech hub in Texas.”

“There is a lot of brainpower over at UT Dallas, and if we can hook that in with what you are trying to do with the Innovation Quarter, we want to work with you,” he said.

As the city works to finalize a potential 2021 bond package, Benson said he hopes the city will consider including projects that affect UT Dallas. He said there are infrastructure improvements that could help ease the flow of traffic around the peripheries of campus.

“We are looking to work closely with you on a number of projects moving forward,” he said.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include correct enrollment numbers.