Five stories that have North Texas talking: Families are struggling to pay for college in Texas; this urban farm in Dallas plans to expand; it's a big month for the tiny town of Valentine, Texas; and more.
The average cost of college tuition and fees for a semester at a Texas public university has more than doubled (from under $2,000 to over $4,000) in the past 15 years, according a report Texas Tribune published this week. The statewide average tuition increase was 147 percent between 2002 and 2015.
Let's look at a few North Texas schools. The increase at the University of Texas at Dallas was also 147 percent, but tuition there was just under $6,000 per semester by 2015. The Arlington campus had a smaller tuition spike — 108 percent — over that same time period.
The University of North Texas in Denton had the highest percent increase among North Texas’ public universities. From 2002 to 2015, the average cost to attend UNT for a semester jumped from just under $2,000 to over $5,000 — that’s a 163 percent hike. In contrast, the university’s younger Dallas branch saw a 22 percent increase, but that was just between 2010 and 2015.
According to the Tribune, the increase among these schools can be partially attributed to the shrinking amount of money per student that Texas is sending its universities. Enrollment has soared in recent years, but lawmakers “in anti-tax Texas have been unwilling or unable to continue funding students’ educations at the same rate as a generation ago.” And the Legislature enacted “tuition deregulation” in 2003, giving schools the freedom to determine their price. [Texas Tribune]
- “This is a big brand. It’s going to be huge. And it’s just a matter of time.” Gerardo Galván has spent the last decade building “a kind of accidental cult” around Topo Chico, the carbonated mineral water from Mexico. Galván is the general manager of Fort Worth-based Interex Corp., which serves as Topo Chico’s presence in the U.S., according to The Dallas Morning News. "Though Mexicans have been drinking Topo Chico (named for the Monterrey neighborhood where it’s bottled) since 1895, the number of Texans who swear by it has continued to climb in recent years.” The gospel of Topo Chico has been spreading so far and wide that even The New York Times had a piece. [The Dallas Morning News]
Fun fact: Topo Chico that's been in the freezer just long enough will instantly turn to ice when opened.
- The Big 12 is withholding 25 percent of its revenue share from Baylor. The collegiate athletic conference said Wednesday it will withhold potentially millions of dollars from Baylor until an outside review determines the university and athletic department are complying with Title IX guidelines and other regulations in the wake of a sexual assault scandal that has rocked the school, The Associated Press reports. Baylor is not being fined; the money is being placed in escrow pending third-party verification of reforms at Baylor. The Big 12 said its board of directors voted unanimously to withhold the money. Baylor did not take part in the vote. [The Associated Press]
- “Ultimately we need a place where people can buy fresh food and can sit down and have a meal together.” Daron Babcock founded Bonton Farms in south Dallas, and he has plans to expand the urban farm to include a market and café to provide an agricultural oasis in the middle of a food desert. Highways, housing projects and convenience stores are all shouting distance from the farm’s two lots. The nearest grocery store is at least a mile away. And a lot of area residents don’t have cars to drive to far-off supermarkets. Babcock wants to provide a resource not only for healthy food but also for education on adopting a healthier lifestyle. [KERA News]
- There’s a town deep in heart of West Texas called Valentine. “The story goes that a railroad crew, in 1882, had finished laying the tracks to the point where a water and fuel depot would be needed. It was Valentine’s Day,” according to Texas Standard. “So they named the depot Valentine. It also was the name of one of their superiors, so the name has dual origins.” The town isn’t so tiny that is doesn’t have a post office. In fact, this month is the busiest time of year because “they receive thousands of cards to be re-mailed bearing the Valentine postage stamp. The cards come from all over the U.S. and as many as 30 foreign countries.” [Texas Standard]