WEATHERFORD – Weatherford College is in the early stages of evaluating expansion or relocation for its Mineral Well campus in Palo Pinto County, said Michael Endy, vice president of instruction and student services.
“It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the building in Mineral Wells is a little bit distant from the population,” he said. “It’s an aging facility, it wasn’t designed for higher education and some of the needs that we have in higher education may not be ideally suited to that location as it presently exists.”
Mineral Wells could one day have a place of higher learning for young and older adults. That depends on how plans for establishing a Weatherford College campus take shape and ultimately what the residents of Palo Pinto County are willing to support.
The Mineral Wells campus is on the site of what used to be Fort Wolters, a former Army training base that lies mostly within Parker County.
With an expanded facility in Wise County and plans for an expanded Granbury campus, the college is looking at growth in all of its service areas, Endy said.
College growth is a national trend.
An estimated 20.4 million students were projected to enroll in 2017 by the National Center for Education Statistics and an estimated 24 million is expected by 2021.
Regardless of projected growth, having a higher education institute at a remote location can reduce the number of interested students, Endy said.
“It’s a problem in a lot of colleges and universities,” he said. “People who don’t already participate and don’t know they’re there (colleges), in Mineral Wells the remote location is difficult.”
The Mineral Wells campus is built with older construction material making it harder to repair, Endy said.
POLL QUESTION: A college campus in Mineral Wells?
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“It’s difficult to repair and it’s certainly difficult to modernize,” he said. “It’s military construction. That’s cinderblock and concrete, so it won’t blow over anytime soon, but it’s also very difficult to modify.
Getting more general education classes to the county, possibly in the form of dual credit for high schoolers could make the college’s academic services more accessible, Endy said.
“English, history, behavioral science, the arts, communication, mathematics, so the people who are over there at 19 or 20 miles away from the base have a location there (in town),” he said. “There are workforce programs we’ve talked about, but we have to balance that because of our funding.”
Veterinarian technician, a baccalaureate of science degree in nursing and American sign language were examples of additional classes that could be offered, Endy said.
Re-evaluating the Mineral Wells’ campus is about serving the Palo Pinto County area better, Endy said.
“We’re really glad to have it, but in long term, we want to look at options ... is there an opportunity for us better serve and where would it be and how would we support that,” he said.