2023 State of the University: Tarleton State’s Purple Won’t Fade

STEPHENVILLE, Texas — From breaking records to breaking ground to breaking barriers, Tarleton State University’s brand promise — This Purple Won’t Fade — gleams brighter than ever.

President James Hurley recapped successes and shared his vision for greater accomplishments in his annual State of the University address today, calling 2023 the best year yet in Tarleton State’s illustrious 124-year history.

“Academics and research. Innovation and healthcare. Education and athletics. We just keep moving ahead,” Dr. Hurley said. “This Purple Won’t Fade fits us to a T.”

Enrollment and Student Experience

Fall 2023 saw another all-time-high enrollment, up nearly 9 percent from a year ago to nearly 17,000 students, outpacing many institutions nationwide. The Class of 2027 is the largest ever — up 13 percent from last fall and 26 percent from 2021. Students in master’s programs surpass 2,000, setting a record. More than 600 of them are new students, representing an almost 24 percent increase from last year. Online campus enrollment is up 10 percent, another first, topping 1,000 students.

Students come from 230 Texas counties, 48 states and 47 countries. Fifty-one percent are the first in their family to attend college, and 23 percent are Hispanic, edging the university closer to becoming a Hispanic-Serving Institution.

The Wall Street Journal’s latest rankings have Tarleton State fifth among schools highly recommended by their students and recent alumni. Recommendation scores, part of the Journal’s 2024 Best Colleges in America rankings, put students’ experiences at the heart of the methodology in one of the largest surveys of verified U.S. students and recent alumni ever conducted. Tarleton earned 87/100.

“The academics, the knowledge exchange, the campus life — they’re all here,” the President said. “We’re thrilled — and not surprised — that our students and alumni recommend Tarleton State to their friends.”

One-of-a-kind partnerships with Texas school districts and two-year colleges — Distinguished High School Partners (336 locations) and Distinguished College Partners (45 campuses) — are providing guaranteed scholarships for students meeting qualifications. And some 2,000 students are earning university credit in STEM and agricultural areas while completing graduation requirements at Texas high schools as part of a new dual enrollment program, Tarleton Today.

Scholarship awards are up 29 percent, and institutional aid has doubled. Tarleton State’s fiscal 2024 operating budget — $289 million — is the largest in its history, and the university is turbocharging the economy with a total annual impact of $2 billion for the state.

Investing in Rural Healthcare and Research

A second building on Tarleton State’s 80-acre campus in Southwest Fort Worth is on schedule to open next fall, and plans are underway for an $80 million Health Professions Building in Stephenville. Both will help meet the need for healthcare professionals in North Texas, especially in rural communities.

Dr. Hurley: “With more than 40 percent of the community hospitals in Texas vulnerable to closure, rural matters. As a national comprehensive public university, we have a moral and social responsibility to enhance access to high-quality, affordable healthcare.”

According to the National Rural Health Association, more than 50 million Americans live in rural communities. The patient-physician ratio in Stephenville alone is 1,779 to 1.

“The greater the challenge, the greater our commitment,” Dr. Hurley said.

In the classroom, a Doctor of Occupational Therapy is in the works for 2025. A Master of Medical Sciences in physician assistant studies is planned for spring 2026, and a Doctor of Physical Therapy is slated for spring 2027.

A PhD in animal and natural sciences starts spring 2024, pending review by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Additional doctoral programs in applied mathematics, experimental psychology, integrative biosciences and higher education leadership are waiting in the wings, as are multiple MS options.

To help fund these endeavors, Tarleton State is celebrating its largest-ever increase in total and restricted research expenditures ($20 million for fiscal 2022) and the largest jump in Higher Education Research and Development rankings — to 290 from 319.

From the 88th legislative session Gov. Greg Abbott approved a record $1.19 billion in new spending for The Texas A&M System, fueling an unprecedented 30 percent general revenue growth for Tarleton State for the next biennium. Tarleton saw the second-highest percentage funding growth in the system, behind only A&M College Station, and was allocated a $5 million exceptional item, reflecting its contributions to research and innovation in addressing healthcare needs throughout the region and state.

In extraordinary growth, the new Institute for Rural Economic Development and Research, approved by the A&M regents in spring 2023, will merge discovery and innovation to grow industries and foster job opportunities. A $7 million Research Administration Building in Stephenville will create an ecosystem to accelerate sponsored research and strengthen regional partnerships.

Part of Texas A&M-Fort Worth’s downtown campus, Tarleton State’s new Biotechnology Institute puts the university in the middle of one of the fastest growing life sciences hotbeds in the country. And an expanded partnership with Fossil Rim Wildlife Center adds a faculty-in-residence at the Glen Rose facility.

A grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration will enable Tarleton State to operate as an EDA University Center — the only one in North Central Texas and one of just 73 nationwide. In addition to $650,000 in EDA funding, regional partners are matching the grant in-kind for a total of $1.3 million over five years. This news complements a National Science Foundation grant just shy of $100,000 to host a two-day GRANTED conference. Emerging and established research institutions from across the country will share best practices and form collaborations to strengthen the nation’s research enterprise.

“To be selected as the only EDA Center in our region is remarkable,” Dr. Hurley said. “The support of area entrepreneurs proves our reputation as a first-choice university destination. Together, we’re creating an exceptional quality of life.”

Athletic and Philanthropic Success

In athletics, Tarleton State has gone prime time, challenging Power 5 opponents — Baylor, Texas Tech, A&M, Alabama, Army — and making a splash on network television. Tarleton football is one of only four teams in NCAA history to start a reclassification to Division I with three straight winning seasons. Since 2018 Tarleton has the highest winning percentage of any scholarship program in the state.

The university broke ground this summer for a $110 million Event Center that will further amplify Tarleton State’s economic impact when it opens in 2025. The multipurpose arena will sport NCAA Division I basketball facilities and room for academic and community events and concerts.

Football, women’s soccer, men’s golf, men’s basketball, tennis, softball, and track and field all outperformed or otherwise beat the odds, and they did so while attaining one of the highest multiyear Academic Progress Rates — 976 — of any school in NCAA history transitioning to D-I. Almost 140 Tarleton student-athletes are Academic All-WAC with a 3.2 GPA or higher.

The President applauded university supporters for their record-breaking philanthropic backing in 2023 and announced that the university shattered its largest-ever comprehensive capital fundraising campaign — eclipsing $125 million — well ahead of its 125-year celebration in 2025.

“We’re blessed to have such visionary friends and family who consistently give more, and we are profoundly grateful for their generosity,” he said. “Their support proves that the spirit of John Tarleton, who gave his life savings to create our institution, is alive and well. Tarleton Texans are dyed-in-purple committed to an accessible, affordable university education.”

A founding member of The Texas A&M System, Tarleton State is breaking records — in enrollment, research, scholarship, athletics, philanthropy and engagement — while transforming the lives of nearly 17,000 students in Stephenville, Fort Worth, Waco, Bryan and online. True to Tarleton’s values of excellence, integrity and respect, academic programs emphasize real world learning and address regional, state and national needs.