Texas State Technical College looks to expand in Fort Bend County
By Betsy Dolan
Texas State Technical College wants to increase its reach in Fort Bend County with a planned $27 million expansion project.
With the county’s explosive growth and job demand for technically skilled workers expected to increase in coming years, leaders with the Henderson-Wessendorf Foundation and the George Foundation have backed the project and are working to get $8M in community support.
At a recent City of Sugar Land workshop, William Jameson with the George Foundation, cited a Perryman Workforce Study commissioned by the foundations that indicate over 48,000 technically skilled workers will be needed in Fort Bend County by 2030. The same study found that the TSTC median hourly wage for “high demand” jobs projected in the county is $23.22/hour or $48,311 a year.
“There are TSTC students that get a four-year degree”, Jameson told the council. “But most are not ready for a 4-year old school or can’t afford a 4-year school. But they still want to be trained, get a good job and be a productive member of the community. That’s the TSTC graduate”, Jameson told the council.
TSTC, based in Waco with several campuses in Texas, has been part of the Wharton County Junior College campus in Richmond since 1999. The Fort Bend Technical Center serves approximately 1,400 students a year offering certification or an associate’s degree in several areas.
TSTC tuition and fees average $9,300 for an Associate’s Degree.
“Four of the top ten jobs that are hard for employers to find are programs available at TSTC”, said Jameson, citing a 2013 ManPower Group survey. Those four “in demand” jobs include skilled trade workers, technicians, IT staff, and drivers.
While no site has been selected, the I-69 corridor is a likely location, Jameson said because the 40-50 acre parcel needs to be easily accessible and not in direct competition with Houston Community College.
While TSTC has already committed $1 million, they plan to ask the state legislature to fund $5 million in equipment costs. Additional funding, Jameson said, could come from tuition revenue bonds, something the legislature has not authorized in 8 years.
“There is some feeling, and I’ve talked to Senator Hegar, that it might be a possibility this year. There is going to be a surplus and there are always a lot of hands out for a surplus, but we think education will get its fair share”, Jameson said.
TSTC is discussing the plan with its industry connections while the foundations are talking to state representatives, local economic development councils, cities, and school districts. If the $8M can be raised, the two foundations say they will cover any shortfall in the hope of having funding in place by the fall of 2015.
“We’re already working on helping children at risk with our scholarship program and we’ve addressed the four-year college. But we saw this need in the middle”, Jameson said. “This is really a county project. It can be dynamic”.
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