CultureMap Austin -- Dallas billionaire Mark Cuban dispenses his no-holds-barred business advice on ABC’s Shark Tank, where budding entrepreneurs seek money from him and other high-profile investors. Now, he’s offering that same brand of advice to Austin.
In a recent email interview, CultureMap asked Cuban to pinpoint the economic Achilles’ heel of Austin.
“I think it needs more than one major university,” Cuban told CultureMap. “There needs to be some competition and diversity of programs like the [Silicon] Valley, Boston, Pittsburgh and other hot areas have. UT is not enough.”
What constitutes a “major” university? Cuban defines it as a school with a national “consumer reputation” for excellence, as opposed to a school that enjoys a solid reputation only in academic circles. To fill the void, a school would need to embrace “a very high standard for admission, education and graduation,” Cuban said.
As it stands now, the University of Texas dominates the local higher education landscape. But if any other school in the Austin area were poised to achieve the rank of “major,” it would be Texas State University in San Marcos.
Currently, enrollment at Texas State stands second behind UT’s among four-year colleges and universities in the Austin area, and the San Marcos school remains a notch below its larger counterpart in terms of stature.
Texas State is moving up the ladder, though. In 2012, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board classified Texas State as an “emerging research” university, in the same company as schools like the UT campuses in Arlington, Dallas, El Paso and San Antonio. That’s one step below UT’s main campus in Austin, which the state recognizes as a top-tier research university.
“It is the start of a new era for our university,” Texas State President Denise Trauth said in 2012.
Texas State is one of eight public universities in Texas that are competing to join UT, Texas A&M University and Rice University in the top tier. Among the eight contenders, Texas Tech University and the University of Houston are the closest to earning top-tier status. For all eight schools, it could take anywhere from several years to several decades — along with millions of dollars — to reach that level.