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Commission lobbies UH System for funding


May 18, 2010 at 12:18 a.m.
Updated May 19, 2010 at 12:19 a.m.

Janey Lack addresses the University of Houston Regents board meeting in Victoria on Tuesday. Lack rolled a mural size photo showing the large turnout at the last expansion project in show of support for the UH system to expand locally to a four year university.

The Crossroads Commission on Education pushed on Tuesday for the University of Houston System to ask the state for funding.

Ideally, the commission would like to have funds ready so University of Houston - Victoria could have a separate campus off Airline Road within the next five years.

"We need you to help us move toward our goal of building a destination university here in Victoria," Randy Vivian, Victoria Chamber of Commerce president, told the UH System board of regents Tuesday when the board met in Victoria.

More than 140 people attended the board meeting, held at UHV.

The board meets quarterly at different universities within the UH System. The last time the board came to Victoria was in 2007.

During the open forum portion of the board meeting, commission members spoke one-by-one of the positive impact UHV's growth and expansion could bring to the city as a destination university.

The commission, led by State Rep. Geanie Morrison, is made up of 21 community leaders who seek to improve education on all levels to ensure a stronger educational workforce in the Crossroads.

"We are strategically located in an area that can attract students, specifically students who are currently underserved or do not believe the education is available to them," Morrison told the board. "More importantly, we are located in an area where we can attract the students and families that the Closing the Gaps plan is seeking to educate."

Since the commission's comments were during the open forum, the board was unable to comment back on anything said.

However, after the board meeting, the commission met with UH System chair Welcome Wilson to give him an overview of the research they had been doing.

In general, Wilson said he supports the commission's goals.

"We support everything you're talking about," Wilson told the commission. "We are convinced Victoria is going to be a destination university, that it's going to succeed. We don't disagree with anything you're trying to do here."

But in terms of asking for state funding for UHV to have a separate campus, Wilson said UHV needs higher enrollment numbers first.

"What would I recommend that you do?" Wilson asked in response to a question from the commission. "Fill that university up."

UHV currently has about 3,700 students - who take courses physically in Victoria, Katy, Sugar Land and online.

According to information from the commission, about 503 students take courses in Victoria. By 2015, UHV enrollment could grow to 7,007, with 2,686 of those taking courses in Victoria, the commission said.

Wilson also addressed the free land offered to build a separate campus.

The 300 acres offered near the Victoria Regional Airport isn't needed at this point, Wilson said.

"The University of Texas was built on 40 acres, not 300. That's all they had for the first 100 years," Wilson said. "At the University of Houston- Downtown, we have 13,000 students, and we have 20 acres. All I'm saying is that big open space is not absolutely necessary in order to have a teaching environment, and so-forth."

Given the economic downturn the country and Texas are facing, funds are hard to come by, Wilson said.

"We are letting people off at the University of Houston," Wilson said. "We're cutting whole programs out. It's happening across the entire state."

In addition, since UHV still has room for growth, Wilson said it was too soon to ask the state for UHV expansion funding in the next legislative session.

"I don't believe it's possible to get the money before the need is proven," Wilson said. "The need to prove it first is absolutely essential in this climate to get any support from legislature."



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