Editor’s note: Long before Austin Community College was established, some Austin residents were making the case for a two-year college to specifically address the needs of local workers and businesses. The American-Statesman featured the issue in a full-page story July 30, 1961, on the proposed Travis County Junior College. Coincidentally, reporter Anita Brewer would go on to become ACC’s first public information officer and later join the Journalism faculty.
A Junior College for Austin
Despite the City’s Concentration of Strong Educational institutions, a Two-Year School Would Occupy an Important Area of Teaching Not Now Being Filled in Travis County
By Anita Brewer
Many Austinites greet the idea of a junior college for Travis County in the same spirit as the chorus girl accepted the gift of a book.
The chorus girl, you remember, said, “Thanks, but I have a book.”
Some people in Austin, at the mention of a junior college, say, “Thanks, but we have a college.” They mean, of course, The University of Texas.
But a look beneath the surface indicates a definite need for a junior college here. Whether the need is as great as the cost is the problem now being explored by the education department of the Austin Chamber of Commerce.
The vice president for education of the chamber is a young, sandy-haired man, Bill Milstead. A businessman (plumbing supplies), Milstead and the education department have received the blessings and the encouragement of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors to continue the investigation of the need for a junior college here and how one would be financed.
Besides the Main University, Austin is the home of the UT Division of Extension, Austin Public Evening School, St. Edward’s University and Huston-Tillotson, and is within a whoop and a holler of Southwest Texas State College at San Marcos and Southwestern University at Georgetown.
Even with all these institutions for study already here, a Travis County junior college probably could have had an enrollment of 744 last year. By 1963, the earliest possible time a junior college could be established, the first year enrollment would be approximately 950.
These enrollment figures came from a study made by Dr. CC Colvert and his graduate students. Dr. Colvert is professor and consultant in junior college education at The University of Texas.
This is the way the 744 enrollment for 1960-61 was arrived at: by the students:
‘‘The total number of high school graduates in Travis County, including the city of Austin, for the two-year period 1948-1949 and 1959-60 was 2,438. Of this total, 1,467 entered college. This means then that 971 high school graduates in Travis County for this two-year period did not enroll in any college or school.”
“Estimating that at least one-third of the 971 high school graduates not now attending college would enroll in the Travis County Junior College (324 students); that at least 15 percent of the 1,467 students now enrolled in other colleges would attend the Travis County Junior College (220 students); and that at least 100 students would attend from surrounding counties, we arrive at an estimated academic enrollment of 644 students for the 1960-61 academic year. Assuming that a vocational and technical division is planned, an additional 100 students could have been anticipated for the 1960-61 year which would have raised the estimated total enrollment to 744 students.”
The junior college as envisioned by Milstead in his studies would have four parts:
Evening classes would be an important aspect of all four parts of a junior college curriculum.
Milstead says there is no conflict whatsoever with The University of Texas in any of these four categories.
First of all, he has found that the University because of its responsibility to all the people of Texas cannot afford to serve as a municipal college with a curriculum planned just for Austin’s requirements.
The University, Milstead believes after asking many questions of educators, will become more and more selective in its admission policies. The student who has goofed off during his high school years may find himself ineligible to enter UT as a freshman.
He suddenly may find on his “road to Tarsus” the realization that he would like to go to the University. A junior college would give him a second chance to prove himself. After two years of junior college, he may have earned good enough grades to enter UT as a junior student.
Over and over, Milstead discovered definite needs for a junior college. For example, nurse technicians for the Austin State Hospital are trained by Blinn College personnel. Also, the Southwestern Bell Telephone Company gave some of their employees leave to go to the University of Houston to take specialist courses not available in Austin.
“In Austin,” says Milstead, “there is a large demand for skilled workers. But the majority of the unemployed, of the available labor supply, are unskilled. As our world becomes more mechanized, more automatic, the need for the skilled will increase even more and the demand for unskilled labor will decline further.”
Aid to Industry
The lack of a junior college has been mentioned often as one of Austin’s shortcomings in its search for industry. Many corporations locating new plants want a technical institution nearby that will help them train people for specific jobs. A Minneapolis-Honeywell plant was located in St. Petersburg, Fla., where the junior college immediately took the responsibility of training 300 technicians for Minneapolis-Honeywell.
A junior college in this county also would raise the adult education level here. It’s around the 10th grade now.
As the Austin Chamber of Commerce education department members ask questions of educators and taxpayers, they are convinced that if Travis County should get a junior college, it likely would be a model.
Because of The University of Texas’ strict nepotism rule forbidding both a man and his wife to teach at The University, Austin has many capable and experienced persons who would be excellent college teachers. Just go down the roster of the UT faculty directory and think of the wives and husbands of faculty members, and you get an idea of the talent available.
What of Cost?
A junior college will cost money. And before the Austin Chamber of Commerce’s education department or its board of directors recommend working to get a junior college, they want to be certain that the people of this county are willing to pay for the part of a junior college not covered by state aid.
It would require a bond election to raise money for buildings. It would require taxes for bond maintenance and operating expenses. It would require, perhaps, another tax assessing setup.
All of these requirements are controversial, and the financing is what the chamber’s education department is investigating now.
Milstead has talked with some of the city’s largest taxpayers, and, for the most part, they have been favorable.
One problem of most junior colleges is answered in Austin even before a junior college is established here—no one will want to make a senior college out of it.
Austin has a senior college—The University of Texas.
Milstead says any definite recommendation now is premature. The study is continuing with the big question still unanswered.
Would a Travis County junior college be worth the cost?
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