FORT WORTH, Texas—Tarleton State University broke ground this afternoon for the first building of its planned campus on 80 acres, donated by the Walton Group of Companies, along Chisholm Trail Parkway.

The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents approved construction plans and an almost $41 million budget last fall for the 76,000-square-foot, three-story academic building.

“Tarleton is a forward-thinking institution, fiercely pursing its mission to transform today’s students into tomorrow’s leaders,” said Charles W. Schwartz, chairman of the Texas A&M System Board of Regents. “A flourishing Fort Worth campus advances that goal, giving students access to a quality, affordable education and increased opportunities for success.

“We are extremely grateful to the Walton Companies, the Legislature and the city of Fort Worth for making this day a reality. After 100 years as a founding member of the A&M System and a 40-year presence in Fort Worth, Tarleton is putting down permanent roots in Tarrant County. We couldn’t be more proud.”

Tarleton came to Fort Worth in 1978 with eight students on West Myrtle Street, moved to the Richard C. Schaffer Building on Enderly Place in the ’90s, and expanded to the Hickman Building on Camp Bowie Boulevard in 2006.

Today, Tarleton-Fort Worth offers more than 40 undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs to a diverse student population of working adults, community college graduates and returning students.

 “As the heart of our presence in Fort Worth, this first building is a nod to our rich heritage and bright future,” said Tarleton President F. Dominic Dottavio. “Our founder, John Tarleton, had dreams of making education accessible and affordable. Now we have an opportunity to extend that dream to more than just the students we serve at our Stephenville campus.

“That’s exactly what is happening in Fort Worth.”

Tarleton-Fort Worth currently serves approximately 2,000 students. Projected enrollment at move-in for the first building—in fall 2019—is 2,500. Depending on resource availability for additional buildings, the campus could serve 9,000 students by 2030.

Projections are based on Tarleton’s long-standing partnerships with Tarrant County, Weatherford, Hill and Collin colleges to create major-related transfer agreements, or pathways, for students to seamlessly complete their degrees, as well as anticipated population growth in North Texas and the number of students choosing to add a graduate degree for career development.

“As our North Texas economy continues to grow and evolve, colleges and universities play an integral role in meeting workforce needs,” Tarrant County College Chancellor Gene Giovannini said. “TCC and Tarleton are leaders in preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s economy, and we value the chance to expand our existing partnership to provide more transfer pathways and opportunities for students at the new Tarleton-Fort Worth campus.”

Tarleton-Fort Worth’s number of 2017 transfer students—from 45 Texas colleges and universities—is up almost 41 percent from just five years ago. Its overall graduation rate for transfer students tops the state average by 10 points, placing Tarleton among the best for Texas public universities.

“Fort Worth’s continued economic development depends on education,” said Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price. “When businesses consider a move to North Texas, educational opportunities are a top priority. Tarleton increases the options and promotes Fort Worth’s reputation as a creative, innovative and vibrant community where people of all ages, from all backgrounds can succeed.”

In addition to state-of-the-art learning environments, common gathering spaces, offices and a large event area, the first building will include a one-stop shop for student services and a community counseling center offering assistance on a sliding-fee scale.