The economic impact of Texas A&M University’s expansion into Fort Worth has been well-documented since it was announced late last year, but city leaders anticipate the project will boost the K-12 education system, too.
Schools in the city of Fort Worth are not in good shape after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, Fort Worth ISD has slipped further behind on student achievement than where it was six years ago. This is a big challenge, and businessman John Goff thinks A&M will give the city’s public schools a much-needed edge.
“They have that talent. They can use best practices and share those best practices with us, and I think do a lot for our public school system, which would be amazing,” Goff said. “We need it desperately.”
The new downtown Texas A&M campus — or Aggieland North as officials call it — took a major step toward reality May 19. Inside the Frost Bank Tower downtown, the Texas A&M University System board of regents solidified its support of its northern expansion. Regents added the Cowtown campus to the system’s five-year capital plan, allowing the project to begin tapping into funds to start its development.
Goff and former Mayor Betsy Price came up with the idea for A&M to transform its law school into a Tier One research institution. Hailed as a game-changer for Fort Worth, the estimated $350 million project was unveiled in November.
Mayor Mattie Parker expects average residents will feel the impact of a major research institution in their backyard. Like Goff, she stressed schools throughout the 12 districts in Fort Worth will be impacted. Together with Texas A&M, those independent school districts will better prepare students for the new workforce in Fort Worth, the mayor said.
“Those conversations have already started and are in their infancy,” Parker said. “Talent is changing, and we really need a partner like Texas A&M to help us look different in Fort Worth and what the future workforce looks like.”
Already, Texas A&M is launching a new engineering academy with Tarrant County College. The academy will allow students to complete their first two years of their engineering degree at TCC and complete their education at Texas A&M’s main campus in College Station. The first group of students will start later this year.
Texas A&M’s new downtown campus will be where multiple industries converge. The law school will remain at the heart. However, business, medicine and more will be researching and developing new technologies at Aggieland North.
Fort Worth has lacked all of that in recent years, several officials said. Decades ago, Fort Worth researched and developed new technology, but it happened inside companies, Price said.
“It’s a perfect blend of a bright future,” Price said. “Strong communities truly have strong education opportunities.”
Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp described Goff and Price as the geniuses behind Aggieland North. It all started with a phone call 18 months ago from the pair, Sharp said. He then met with other leaders in Fort Worth. That’s truly when Aggieland North started to come to fruition, he said.
“We came to the conclusion that the fastest-growing city in the nation, which is Fort Worth, needed a Tier One research institution,” Sharp said.
Companies can be here one day and gone the next, Goff said, citing Exxon’s acquisition of XTO Energy, which led to 1,600 Fort Worth jobs going to Houston. Conversely, universities stay, he said, and a Tier One research institution attracts companies.
Goff made a bold prediction almost a quarter of the way into the 21st century: Nothing else will rival the impact the Texas A&M campus will have on Fort Worth and even across North Texas.
“This is the single-most impactful thing that will happen in Fort Worth this century,” he said. “This is going to redefine this city.”
Officials in Fort Worth and College Station have all sorts of plans for this new campus. However, Sharp suspects the best and most-cutting edge ideas have yet to percolate.
“You ain’t seen nothing yet,” the chancellor said.
Disclosure: John Goff and Betsy Price are financial supporters of the Fort Worth Report. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.