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OpEd: The Case for a Catholic University in El Paso

It should go without saying that the future of our community relies heavily on our education. Our solutions have typically been contextualized with the proverbial “chicken or the egg” scenario – whereas, should we attract industry, first OR improve our educational standards to then attract industry.

It’s a conundrum that has plagued the leaders of this city for decades.

Perhaps it’s time to start talking openly, and boldly, about identifying a dramatic change to the makeup of our landscape. A change that is feasible, sorely needed, and has proven to pay generational dividends in the communities that they serve.

It’s time for El Paso to be home to the next major Catholic university in the United States.

The last Catholic university built in the United States was Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida in 2005. The vast economic impact of Ave Maria has been nothing short of amazing; whereas, a similar impact in El Paso would truly transform the landscape in perpetuity.

The enormous economic impact of a true destination university would be felt almost immediately with the employment of full-time employees, faculty, and administrators; the purchase of goods & services from the local economy; capital improvement projects; building construction; hotel and lodging revenue for visitors and students; increased amount of degree holders; and the list goes on.

According to a March 2011 economic impact study on Ave Maria by the consulting firm Tucker/Hall, the extensive investments that went into the construction of the university had a “ripple effect.”

From 2007 to 2010, more than $814 million had been invested in the development of the Ave Maria community.

More than $446 million in nonresidential and university construction; almost $77.6 million in residential home construction; more than $19.7 million in costs for planning, architectural, professional services, and engineering; and nearly $4.5 million in combined annual maintenance. The total impact of Ave Maria to Naples, Florida from 2007 to 2010 was roughly $1.28 BILLION!

El Paso is geographically positioned in the center of a Catholic university void. There is not a single university outside of Dallas or Los Angeles.

Further, El Paso loves to use San Antonio as a benchmark for success. San Antonio is home to 5 major universities – 3 of which are Catholic. The economic impact those universities have had on San Antonio has afforded them key advantages over El Paso when it comes to boasting about economic and educational achievements.

Now is the time to bring the dream and vision of what our community should be into reality. Envision for a moment a bustling, vibrant and new university community that will be able to align all the organic synergies we have at every level of our educational eco-system on our iconic border.

Written by: David E. Saucedo

Saucedo is a native El Pasoan, Cathedral and Notre Dame Graduate who returned to the Sun City with an accounting degree to help run his family’s century-old locksmithing business.

 

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One comment

  1. What an uninformed crock this piece is. Ave Maria University, 12 years after its founding, is $60 million in debt, struggling to hold its enrollment steady (nevermind the fact that there are only about a third of the students forecast for this time), and is steadily losing experienced faculty who are replaced with adjuncts or young teachers fresh out of graduate school with no teaching experience. It is not even remotely a “destination university” as the author describes it. I’m all for starting new Catholic universities, but hope the city fathers in El Paso don’t think that Ave Maria University is a model to follow.

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