Advocate editorial board opinion: UHV needs system that sees opportunity for growth
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If you don't share the same vision, you're not going to see similar possibilities.
This axiom came to mind after the Oct. 3 story in the Victoria Advocate regarding e-mail exchanges between University of Houston System officials and Tim Hudson, then-president of the University of Houston-Victoria. The e-mails revealed how Hudson pushed to turn UHV into a so-called destination university and ran headlong into system leaders who did not support those efforts.
Hudson mapped out an aggressive plan for growth that could max out its current 19-acre campus within five years. Student enrollment on the Victoria campus is projected to double during that time. Before Hudson could finish this vision, UH Chancellor Renu Khator transferred him in August to a system position.
The community has spoken loudly and repeatedly about its desire to do whatever it takes to grow UHV. Leaders have shown their willingness to do everything they can to expand the opportunity for higher education in South Texas and beyond. In an Advocate guest column Thursday, community leader Buddy Lee wrote, "The state is going to have a larger population, and there are going to be a lot more students to educate, so why not plan for it in the beginning?"
That new beginning is now. Because of how slowly the legislative process works for getting money for new land or buildings, UHV supporters must act now to even be ready for the campus to expand in five years. That's why it's not at all premature to plan for a need that does not yet exist.
The upcoming session is when the legislature typically considers requests for capital expenditures. Legislators generally do this every other session, meaning the next opportunity will be in four years.
If UHV supporters wait four years, the momentum of growth could be lost. Any new construction might not happen for another decade or more.
This explains the urgency for the UH regents to commit now to a plan for UHV or let the campus move to another system that shares this vision. Throughout its 37-year history, UHV has struggled to succeed while being the lowest-funded university in the state. In an Advocate guest column Oct. 1, former Victoria state legislator Joe Wyatt spelled out some of the history of UH's reluctance to invest in the campus here.
Against this backdrop, the community begins to understand why system leaders dragged their feet on UHV's expansion during the past legislative session. That 2009 legislation enabled UHV to add underclassmen and start down the path of becoming a destination university, which would serve students from beyond the Crossroads.
The e-mails between Hudson and system leaders shed more light on the issue. The system is understandably focused on turning the University of Houston into a Tier 1 institution, a leading research institution. That's a worthy goal for UH and for the state. Every Texan should support this effort.
However, also worthy is the goal of expanding UHV and opportunities for higher education in South Texas. This effort fits perfectly with "Closing the Gaps," one of the state's top education initiatives. Texas understands it's an economic imperative to get more students into higher education. In particular, colleges and universities must do more to attract and retain minority students.
Nestled between four metropolitan areas and near the Rio Grande Valley, Victoria is ideally suited to serve that growing need. If the UH System doesn't see this opportunity, other university systems do.
The legislators to carry forth this vision are State Rep. Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria, and Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy. The community should stand strongly behind them as they talk with UH and other systems about what's best for UHV and the state's students of higher education. Morrison and Hegar have served this area ably and are up to both the challenges and possibilities ahead.
This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.