Higher Education in the Hill Country

By Suzanne B. Bopp on June 29, 2012 at 2:37 pm EST


When you look around the country at great cities, you always find a higher education institution involved, says Steve Mack, board chairman of the Kendall County Economic Development Corporation.

And now higher education is coming right to Boerne, thanks to Project Red Apple, a new educational alliance that will broaden educational opportunities in Kendall County. That was, in fact, one of the original goals of Kendall County’s Economic Development Corporation when it was formed, Mack says.

“We wanted to enlist or recruit an institution of higher learning to Boerne or Kendall County, to offer courses to our residents without requiring them to drive to San Antonio.”

The EDC took that goal and worked to generate interest. Texas Tech University seemed one natural place to look. Texas Tech had an interest in being in the Hill Country, and “there’s a big contingent of Texas Tech graduates here,” says Boerne Mayor Dan Heckler. So, contact was made and visits began back and forth: Texas Tech officials came to Boerne, and Boerne officials went to visit Texas Tech.

Soon the deal was struck.

The Alamo Colleges also seemed a good fit, especially as they are planning to start construction soon on a new campus on the Kendall/Bexar county line. “That’s how they’ll be involved, by providing classrooms and instructors at their new campus,” Heckler says.

Among the first offerings will be master’s degrees in nursing and education – two particular needs the EDC identified.

“The medical community in San Antonio is expanding rapidly. They need nurses,” Mack says.

Working teachers interested in furthering their careers and moving into administration will be ideal candidates for the master’s degree in education.

For high school students, Project Red Apple will offer the chance to get a leg up on college credits. Boerne juniors and seniors will be able to enroll in classes on the high school campus that will earn both high school and college credit – up to 60 hours – which is enough for an associate’s degree by the time they graduate high school. They’ll need just two more years to earn a bachelor’s degree.

“We have a lot of smart kids here, and a lot of them go to school elsewhere. We want them to be able to stay near home and get their education,” Heckler says. Both schools will offer tuition assistance if students go on to earn degrees at the Texas Tech or Alamo Colleges systems.

Workforce training is yet another component of Project Red Apple. “We have a lot of service industry here and semiprofessional jobs but no way of training the workforce,” Heckler says. “We’re working with local businesses to identify the core subjects people need to be considered for employment. We want them to hire our workers.”

Project Red Apple’s first classes are scheduled to start at Texas Tech in January 2010. “I can’t wait for the first class to graduate,” Heckler says. “People will say, ‘Oh, I can do that too,’ and we’ll be flooded with students.”

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