Growing Cities
2:59 pm
Thu May 30, 2013

San Marcos Rate Of Population Growth Leads Nation -- Why It's Booming

Eight of the 15 fastest-growing large cities in the United States are in Texas, but among those eight, it may come as a surprise that San Marcos is leading the charge, with a 4.9 percent rate of growth.

San Marcos had the highest rate of growth between July 2011 and July 2012 among all "large cities" in the U.S. (defined as cities and towns with at least 50,000 people). They made the list by the skin of their teeth, barely cracking the mark with a Census Bureau population estimate of 50,001.

The growth rate illustrates how how the city itself has solidified alongside Texas State University-San Marcos, and also means San Marcos officials need to make sure they can support that growth.

The student population of the university has exploded over the last ten years from about 25,000 in 2002 to nearly 35,000 in Fall 2012, with ongoing construction of new dorms, academic buildings and an expanded football stadium all part of the growth.

San Marcos Mayor Daniel Guerrero, himself a San Marcos native and graduate of Texas State, was quick to point out that the university is still considered a commuter school, and the numbers emphatically support that statement.

Of the 34,225 enrolled for the Fall of 2012, an incredible 23,372 students live outside the San Marcos area.

That means those 23,372 students all rely on city services like roads and other infrastructure, but do not live in the city and count toward the census numbers, which are used when distributing federal and state money for city projects.

Houston, San Antonio and Austin are three of the top five in highest total numeric growth.
Houston, San Antonio and Austin are three of the top five in highest total numeric growth.
Credit U.S. Census Bureau

"I think it definitely puts San Marcos in the spotlight and reaffirms the growth of Central Texas," said Guerrero, who also said these numbers make for a greater sense of investment in the city.

"We're trying to do our best to keep up with aging infrastructure and putting investment in roadways," he said.

David Dickson, a demographer with the U.S. Census Bureau, was the team lead in charge of estimating the populations of cities and towns around the country and he said the bulk of San Marcos's growth came from a bigger slice of Hays County, which grew 3 percent over the timeframe, thanks to an increase in new housing, which is helps support a swelling student population.

Dickson said the growth numbers did not reflect an increase in on-campus occupants, but since those census numbers came out, Texas State has completed additional housing units, and more are already under construction.

Two new residence halls opened in Fall 2012, holding an additional 612 students, and two more are under construction, making room for 578 more students.

"We are building two new halls every other year until 2020," said Dr. Rosanne Proite, director of the Department of Housing and Residence Life at Texas State, adding that the goal is to have 8,500 students on campus by that time.

Other interesting numbers from the census data:

  • Austin has moved up two places and is now the eleventh largest city in the U.S. thanks to a growth of 25,395 people over the last year.
  • San Antonio bested the state capitol by a family of five with an increase of an even 25,400.
  • San Antonio is still the seventh largest city in the U.S. and has the fourth highest numeric increase.