UT student population size will not be affected by state population growth

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Photo Credit: Leah Rushin | Daily Texan Staff

UT’s student population will not increase at the same rate as Texas’ projected 2050 population growth, according to University officials.

Last week, the Office of the State Demographer released a report that included population numbers and migration rates for Texas’ population in 2015. The report predicted that by 2050, Texas’ population will double to a total of 54.4 million residents because of people moving to Texas from around the country.

“Beginning in 2005, Texas has experienced the largest annual population growth of any state,” state demographer Lloyd Potter said in the report that was released Thursday. “This momentous growth in Texas population is due to natural increase and net migration.”

While the increase reported in the study would double the population size of Texas, the University’s numbers would be unaffected, UT spokesperson Gary Susswein said.

“The University would have to make a decision about how large the student body should be,” Susswein said. “Right now, the campus is designed for approximately the number of students we have.”

The size of the University comes from a calculated decision made by University leaders, according to Susswein.

“For some time, we’ve been a university of about 50,000, and under the Board of Regents, we are increasing enrollment in some areas,” Susswein said. “But [student population] is a top area for UT leadership to look at. It is an active topic of conversation as the state continues to grow, but for now, UT is appropriately sized.”

The University would not have the capability to handle more students with its current amount of funding, Student Government president Kori Rady said.

“As you probably know, we are struggling with the budget as it is in serving all students adequately,” Rady said. “In a perfect world, we would keep the number at the current level and have more funding. [Since] the constitution says [the University] is to serve the state, I can see potential growth.”

Although the University has no predictions for changes in number of admissions in the future, Susswein said the already-competitive process may become even more intense with population growth.

“We used to be able to admit all of the top 10 percent [students], and now we’re admitting [different percentages of students] depending on the year,” Susswein said. “It reflects the fact that UT is competitive, and UT is growing in population.”

Biochemistry sophomore Anthony Yuan said the state’s increasing population could make it more difficult for high school students to be accepted to the University, according to Yuan.

“That’s probably what they’d do, decrease the top percentage,” Yuan said. “I could see if the population of Texas grows, UT might become even more competitive.”

The population increase would push legislature to look at the higher education system differently as a whole, Susswein said.

“As the state grows, our legislators have to look at the whole ecosystem of our higher education system,” Susswein said. “[They need to] look at the entire higher education ecosystem: how many universities the state should have, community colleges, the roles of different colleges and universities. That’s really a policy decision driven by state leadership.”