Jan 11, 2017–When I arrived in Fredericksburg in 1978, I fell in love with everything about the area. The food, the music, the climate, the scenery, the mix of German, Spanish, and Southwestern cultures.
The one thing missing? Local access to higher education. Therefore I jumped when asked to join the committee in the early 1990s that started the push for establishing a college presence in Fredericksburg.
After some formal lobbying by that steering group, Austin Community College acknowledged the need and opportunity and began offering classes here.
This was before the era of internet and telecommuting, so they required a physical presence. As Director of Community Education, I was able to arrange classrooms at the high school for those first classes. It was an instant success, with an enthusiastic response from locals wanting to get started on college.
Over the past 25 years, the offerings grew, a building was constructed, and now two schools–Texas Tech University and Central Texas College–offer an amazing array of courses both on campus and online at Hill Country University Center (HCUC).
It’s an overused cliché to call something a “best kept secret,” but it applies to HCUC. For many of us, HCUC is a place we pass on the way to the wineries. (We joke that more people would pay attention if HCUC had a football team or mascot.)
This past fall I became reengaged with HCUC, and have been privileged to interview many current students. It is gratifying that these “non traditional” students are benefitting from an entity that was set up before they were born.
They are a diverse lot. Their ages range from 16 into the 50s, with a variety of reasons for pursuing higher education in Fredericksburg.
One student is in his 50s and works as a groundskeeper. His goal is to “get off the bulldozer” and earn a degree in business
Another went to a university with dreams of becoming a teacher. She instead became a mother, sidelining those dreams. But only temporarily, as she figured out she could come back home and continue to take classes here.
Another young lady arrived in Fredericksburg at age 13 speaking only Spanish. Today, she is teaching those students who were once like her.
A young man is able to work on a ranch, look after his family, and still pursue his interest in engineering.
The stories go on.
Several drive over from neighboring towns, even when they have college options there. Many get a jumpstart on college credit courses while still in high school. One is learning about the wine industry; another is switching careers in midlife.
Through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at TTU, even those age 50 and above have access to interesting courses.
In addition to the above, there are other advantages to staying in Fredericksburg and taking classes:
-lower cost tuition
-ability to take dual credit courses while still in high school
-transfer of credits from CTC to TTU and other state universities
-access to certification classes, from grape growing to winemaking
It is rewarding to see how the concept has developed and how the community has embraced “the Hill Country’s university center.”
One slogan we used in community education was “the learning never ends.” Sadly, the truth for many used to be “the learning never begins.”
With HCUC, that no longer needs to be true.
Registration for spring classes is now open. The Hill Country University Center is located at 2818 E. Hwy 290 in Fredericksburg. Information and complete course listings and schedules are available at www.hcucenter.org.
Central Texas College contact: email@example.com, 254-616-3401
Texas Tech University contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, 806-834-3753
Phil Houseal is a writer and owner of Full House PR.
Contact him at email@example.com