A Great University Makes a Great City
This week, The University of Texas at Austin celebrates its 131st spring commencement conferring 5,832 bachelor’s degrees, 1,900 master’s degrees, and 954 doctoral degrees. It’s an impressive bumper crop of graduates, but the number of this round of graduates only slightly conveys the importance the state’s flagship university has on our capital city and Austin’s value to the Forty Acres.
Once only the UT Tower and the State Capitol were considered Austin's skyscrapers.
There was a period when Austin’s reputation as a laid-back college town made it cheap and attractive for many graduates that wanted to continue living here, despite the lack of job opportunities. The UT tower and the state capitol were the iconic buildings scraping the sky. Graduate students were content driving taxi cabs in order to call Austin home while contemplating more lucrative opportunities in Dallas or Houston. The university bragged about its educational and research capability and the city bragged about its university. Austin had little else.
Today, however, taller buildings dwarf the tower and the capitol, and countless construction cranes foretell of a city that is quickly catching up with the global prowess of UT’s intellectual and cultural backbone. Now, university recruiters include specific reference to Austin as a key differentiator after exhausting the list of academic accolades for why prospective students should choose UT over UVA or Dartmouth or Duke.
Together, Austin and UT create a compelling reason for the brightest students to study here, and for graduating students to stay. We have outgrown the sole attractions of college football and Hippy Hollow. Now the magnetic draw is a combination of our vibrant city culture and diversifying employment base. This is the fruit of a great university with a vision that improves its own capability for teaching and research but also creates benefit for its host city. It’s only an initial indication of what a $3 billion capital campaign, the Campaign for Texas, can produce.
The University of Texas at Austin stands behind our city’s growing reputation as a tech center. It birthed the concept as an economic alternative to state employment when it established the IC2 Institute in the 70s and collaboratively attracted Sematech to establish a presence here in the 80s.
Contributions toward the Campaign for Texas helped expand the Texas Advanced Computing Center and build the new Engineering Education and Research Center, The Gates Computer Science Complex, and the Dell Computer Science Hall. The recent groundbreaking of the Dell Medical School will soon fuel the collaboration of technology and biomedical research to reinvent healthcare and wellness. These are not just buildings. They represent the bedrock of Austin’s economic future.
Since 1884, UT has awarded 604,182 degrees
Austin’s growing popularity as a pinpoint on the world’s cultural map is rooted in the culture of a campus that contains the Blanton Museum of Art, the Harry Ransom Center, and the Belo Center for New Media. The influence of thought and creativity that spills over from a university into a city gains momentum, which in turn fuels an economic engine that puts intelligence and innovation to work.
Economists estimate the benefit to our state is a 20-to-1 return on investment for dollars appropriated from the legislature to The University of Texas at Austin. As the host city, we reap a greater reward. It’s the reason we should all support legislative funding for our public university and the reason we should also participate as individual contributors to the Campaign for Texas. It’s a good investment.
The campaign concludes in August, and currently is $144 million shy of reaching the $3 billion goal. More than 134,000 individual alumni have contributed toward the effort, and the participation by individual non-alumni is almost as strong at nearly 114,000 contributors.
The success of The University of Texas at Austin is clearly linked to the success of our capital city. When the tower beams bright burnt orange to celebrate a new round of graduates, we should all celebrate in the new round of opportunities they bring to our world.