Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Why Can't They Just Tell the Truth?

You know, I often wonder what the government-is-always-right crowd thinks of people like me. Do they think that those of us who have the audacity to question the benevolence of our wonderful elected officials do it just for kicks? Do they think we just woke up one morning and proclaimed, "I'm going to be against anything and everything that local government attempts to do"? Do they ever even consider that maybe...just maybe...we oppose or support things based on a set of principles, or a political philosophy, perhaps? Or maybe we just have BS detectors, that end to go off nearly every time we are being sold a new idea? Nah, that kind of abstract thought doesn't seem to be congruent with the persona of the sheep.

Speaking just for me, what normally gets me motivated to oppose something is when I am told something that is either completely untrue, has had the facts manipulated, or just plain does not make sense. At that point, I feel it is incumbent upon me to do a little research and attempt to present the facts. After all, I do believe in the political process and I fully understand that you win some and you lose some. While I can accept that things won't always be seen by others as I view them, I cannot accept people making decisions without having the facts.

Over the past few weeks, quite a few claims have been made by those supporting the UHV-A&M switch. Some have been made by Dale Fowler, some by the City Council, some by members of VEDC, and some by people posting on the VA website. I don't intend to attribute each comment to its appropriate source, and it isn't even really relevant to do so. From what I have seen thus far, each and every person in favor of the switch to A&M will agree with any statement that showers favor on that endeavor, regardless of the level of veracity.

When this whole ordeal began, I knew virtually nothing about university systems. Of course I knew that several state universities had campuses in other locations, but I was unaware of how pervasive it was. I also was unaware of the switch from  Texas State to Texas Tech by Angelo State University. I don't pretend to know everything that transpired prior to that action, but I do know one thing for sure. I know that situation and this one are not identical. Some have attempted to make that point, and it is disingenuous to say the least.
As I stated earlier, there have been many claims made by many people. There have been more than a few projections floated, as well as promises made. There is no need to rehash it all, but I would like to focus on a few claims that are easily dispelled with just some rudimentary statistical analysis. I have heard several times that the Texas A&M System has a track record of taking university campuses in rural settings to levels never dreamed of before. Some are making it seem as though A&M can do no wrong and is just the fix for any situation similar to the one here in Victoria. Then there is the claim being made that this will grow Victoria and the economic boost will be so great that none will be able to deny it. We all heard Joe Truman tell us that this would garner a thousand fold return on investment. I think most of us heard Joe then stand behind his statement. So, me being the fact-checker that I am, I decided to take a look at the matter.

Of the current eleven universities in the Texas A&M system, there are only three that I can reasonably compare to UHV. One is A&M Texarkana, but there is not enough history there to have established a true record. So that left me with West Texas A&M and Texas A&M Kingsville. Neither of these universities are 100% comparable either, but it was as close as I could get.

So what numbers did I look at? Well, first of all, I checked to see how long each of the universities had been a part of the A&M System. I also thought it was pertinent to know their year of inception. After all, particularly in higher education, legacy can be a great selling point. Then I wanted to know the historical enrollment figures. Since so many people seem to think that A&M has been wildly successful in growing the student population in each of their System universities, I wanted to verify it. Lastly, I wanted to see the population trends of the communities in question. Since economic impact has been a focal point of much of the dialogue concerning the switch, I felt it was pertinent to analyze the growth or contraction of the respective communities. While population growth is not always indicative of prosperity, I think you would be hard pressed to offer up an example of prosperity without population expansion.

So here is what I found:

TAMU-Kingsville was established in 1925 (under a different name, of course). It joined the TAMU System in 1989. I was unable to locate a complete historical enrollment for TAMU-K, but I was able to find enrollment figures for a few years. They are as follows:

*1971 – 8,096
1989 – 5,783
1992 – 6,415
2000 – 5,949
2004 – 6,166
2008 – 5,698
2010 – 6,595

*Largest enrollment in the history of the institution

So, what do these numbers represent? To me, it is pretty clear that the enrollment at TAMU-K has remained fairly constant, with only a 14% increase in the 21 years it has been in the TAMU System. The Fall 2010 enrollment is also 1,501 shy of the record attendance achieved in 1971.

West Texas A&M was established (again, under another name) in 1910. It joined the TAMU System in 1990. Here are some enrollment figures for West Texas A&M:

*1969 – 7,935
1980 – 6,559
1990 – 6,191
2000 – 6,775
2010 – 7,842

*Largest enrollment in the history of the institution

In the 20 years since West Texas A&M has been in the A&M System, enrollment has increased just under 27%, or by 1,651 students. Again, the Fall 2010 enrollment is below the record enrollment in the history of the University.

Now let’s take a look at the population trends for Kingsville and Canyon, where West Texas A&M is located. The website that I collected the following numbers stopped with the 2006 estimates, but I used it because it was operated by the US Census Bureau.

Kingsville population numbers:

1990 – 25,276
2000 – 25,575
2006 estimate – 24,394

That is a decrease in population since A&M took over the local University in Kingsville.

Canyon population numbers:

1990 – 11,365
2000 – 12,875
2009 estimate – 14,529

So after 19 years of their local University in the A&M System, the population of Canyon, TX has increased by just under 28%. Let’s see how that compares with Victoria, where, according to some, we are in desperate need of the boost that only Texas A&M can provide.

Victoria population numbers:

1990 – 55,076
2000 – 60,603
2006 estimate – 62,169

That reflects an increase of roughly 13% in population since 1990. I am sure that number would have exponentially higher with A&M in town. The UH System should be ashamed for holding us down. Will any of this change anyone's mind? Probably not. But at least now a few people will have a few facts with which to formulate an opinion.


Shasta said...

I don't think we should use town population growth in this analysis because (at least 100 years ago when I was in college), a college student did not have to claim permanent residency in the town of which they lived when they were attending college. Again, at least when I was in school, a college student did not have to get their drivers license changed to reflect their dorm address, did not fill out census information, etc. Maybe the rules have changed.

The enrollment figures for TAMU-K and TAMU-West, that's so interesting stuff! I know I am not the most knowledgeable on all things Aggie, but I have never heard of TAMU-West and couldn't tell you where Canyon, Texas is located. That's a destination unversity for you!

Jared said...


Thanks for your work on the research of the other A&M campuses. It is very important to realistic in goals and predictions. I do think Victoria is a bit different and offers a unique geographic niche than the other places you mentioned.

I do have a question. In your research, did you find if these other satelite campuses were a destination university before A&M took them over?

Matt Ocker said...

In order to answer your question, you will have to be specific about what constitutes a destination university.

As for your indication that Victoria is unique, you are correct. Every situation has differing variables. However, my main point is that what we are being told is not factual. The idea that A&M is and always has been a savior for fledgling universities simply is not correct. How many times have we already been reminded that A&M has not even made any commitments concerning their plans for UHV?

Matt Ocker said...


You are correct that student populations are not included in census numbers. However, that is not the point. Central to this movement is the promise of economic growth from those in favor of the switch. While I agree that increases in population are not always indicative of economic growth, I am confident in my assertion economic expansion cannot occur absent a population increase. In other words, there is no way that the economic gains will simply be spread among the current population. Still another way to say it is that we are not just all going to get richer. I hope that makes more sense.

BIGJ said...

Matt Ocker.

They won't tell you the truth because the action is borderline crinimal. One can not build a univerity when there is not a tax base. A student can not attend a college, when he or she can not pay for it in the first place (ie: Geanie Morrison's HB 3015 & the lack of jobs).

Defeat Morrison 2012.

Edith Ann said...

Well, why can’t they? Good question!

For the record, as I have stated over on my blog and probably on the Advocate—it matters not to me who ‘parents’ our local university.

Now, do I see the reasons for change as clearly as some? At this point, no. I have had a couple of lengthy discussions with another individual and we have discussed what all the local UHV folks have accomplished and what the barriers have been. The other’s position has been one of needing the change in systems in order for the ‘vision’ to continue to be realized. I, on the other hand, come from the position of success is already happening, without Houston’s support.

I really think the other and I are on the same page, ‘end result’ wise, we just see different paths to get there. But in the interest of justifying my position, let me say this—

The University of Houston Victoria has accomplished many great things for the small institution that it is. They have added all of those sports programs, which are very visible things, but they have also brought in the American Book Review, and has the Cuneiform Press. They partner with a couple of other universities for the Fiction Collective Two, a writing program. I do agree that the credit for much of this goes to Tim Hudson. The problem, obviously for Hudson, was that he bucked the system, and it bucked back. Unfortunate, perhaps, but a reality. Was he a martyr for this community? Or did he just not heed the warnings? I’ll let you decide.

There is no doubt that good and great things have happened over on that campus. And they have happened whether any one acknowledges the difficulties or acts like it’s been smooth sailing. But—I have not agreed with some of the means the pro-change folks have used to attempt to accomplish their agenda. The one that miffs me the most is the deliberate misrepresentation of the enrollment figures. I still do not understand how they can report inflated figures for the Victoria campus and think we’re not going to question it. Since that is really such a huge thing with me, the deliberate dishonesty, it just kind of paints the whole deal is a questionable light.

With that said, I am ready for this matter to be settled so that we can turn our attention back to our city government. Those guys are up to funky stuff much of the time, and we cannot sit back and let them continue to give away the town and the money unchecked!

Matt Ocker said...

Could not have said it better myself, Edith Ann!

I am completely on board with the idea that it is not about UH or A&M, but about legality and purity of the process. When you compromise your principles, you lose yourself.

justataxpayer said...

Sorry for all the text, but Matt reading Geanie's and Will's half truths have just set me off.

“Unexpected consequences”, that should be the title of the VEDC Report which got the Boys and the Crossroads Commission on (let’s expand Victoria to Paco Acres) Education. I have just completed reading the report the "movers" have used for their justification to "recruit" the A&M System to fulfill their Legacy. Will Armstrong has used funky numbers to justify many things, but honestly, this report takes the cake. The "analyst" obviously asked, "what results to you want?" And that is exactly where the reported ended up at. Everything, without an exception is a fraud. The starting point. The ending point. The money each student will bring into the community. The geometrically expanding enrollment estimates. But surely, the analyst could have started with the proper starting point. For example the analyst started the Fall 2010 enrollment at 804. Everyone knows or knew the official numbers were in the 400 for full-time students. So there you have it, fraud, lies and tell me what you want and it will be justified.

Do not forget, as I have noted a number of times, I am an Aggie. I am a former student of Texas A&M University. I do bleed maroon. But I am tempered with a slight UHV graduate degree. Needless to say, while I am partial to A&M I have not lost my common sense. When Will and the "Leaders" bring in the A&M System will these boys find something wrong? They will soon cry foul. They will whine "you are not helping up fulfill our vision" of growing Victoria into the 100 acre woods campus. Victoria should grow but not for the benefit of Will Armstrong's legacy and the shakers profit.

UHV will not grow when you add an additional $1347 per semester to the cost of tuition. Tuition increases is what pays for the cost of college buildings now. What they didn't tell you this? That is right, another unintended misfortunate event which will happen to the future TAMU-V or UHV students if Will and the Boys are successful. Where did the extra $1347 figure come from? Texas A&M University charges students above the minimum state required tuition. You see, the State of Texas says the minimum tuition is set at $54/semester hour. Texas A&M has set it at $174/hour with a minimum of 15 hours, regardless. If you don't believe me, drive up to College Station and look at all those new building I am helping to finance.

Do you really think the current UHV recruits from the Rio Grande Valley can afford new buildings? Shucks, they can't and higher tuition will force some students to resort to more loans or drop out. Shucks, Geanie and Will, just another unexpected consequence. Right Geanie? Sure, a change to TAMUS will not cost the taxpayer anything. And those kids and their parents are choppen liver.

Edith Ann said...

Unexpected consequences.

Is that the same as Collateral Damage?

Like in war?

Nuclear War.

Edith Ann said...

I had to post again--the word verification is 'warindr' (war ender).

It's a sign!

Shasta said...

@justataxpayer: Have you heard of B-on-Time student loans available to college students in Texas? I suggest you "google it". Compare the 2010 and 2011 allocations tables. TAMU leads the way in utilizing this student loan which will be forgiven if certain qualifications are met, like graduating in 4 years with undergrad degree. I don't know about you, but if I were a kid from the valley (one of the prime recruiting regions for UHV) wanting to go to college but didn't want pay for or couldn't afford it, this is the way I would go.

Sadly, it may be hard for a student to graduate in 4 years if UHV can't keep hold of UH-Sugarland and UH-Cinco Ranch.
Does anyone know how many of UHV's current undergrad degree programs require attendance at either one of those Houston area campuses?

Jared said...


For my question, I am considering a destination university as a place with dorms in which would attract students from outside the vacinity.

Did A&I and the other you mentioned have dorms in place at the time of A&M taking them over?

Edith Ann said...


Corpus Christi State University was an upper division school since its inception and until about 1993.

TAMU took over in 1989, and the very first graduating class walked the stage of the Bayfront Plaza Auditorium (now the Selena Memorial Auditorium) on December 17, 1990. I walked with the School of Arts and Science.

I had transferred my 56 credits to CCSU to complete my degree. But I drove back and forth to Corpus every day (moving wasn't the best option for my family) and for the 18 months that it took me to get the remaining 70 credits for my degree, there was like one dorm, and some minimal married student housing.

All of the improvements came over the next few years. There was no mad rush to make this a destination university.

And for the record--I am not an aggie. I didn't attend any classes in College Station. I am a TAMUCC Islander!

justataxpayer said...

Shasta, I am very familiar with this loan. The concept is a good one. Keep your grades up during your college career. Graduate in 4years or less. Do these things and your loan is forgiven. My understanding is that some of the funding comes from an excise fee charged all college students. As if college students paying $20k a year should be asked to be funding anything extra.