Victoria and UHV should work together
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In the discussion that Victoria needs to change to the Texas A&M University System and end a 37-year relationship with the University of Houston System, I maintain Victoria and UHV should continue to work together.
Here's a quote by the UH System in a statement to the Fort Bend Independent on March 23. "Throughout the 37-year history of UH Victoria, the UH System has strongly supported UHV's mission of serving the educational needs of the Victoria community, as well as promoting the Coastal Bend region's economic well-being and advancing its quality of life. This is consistent with the UH System's strategic priority of student success, as well as Texas' Closing the Gap Initiatives."
In my opinion, UHV continues to carry out its mission in Victoria. The examples that UHV has not fulfilled its responsibilities to our community are troublesome. What evidence do local developers and political leaders offer as a basis for divestiture from the UH System?
For instance, UHV's downward expansion was opposed by the UH System. However, I recall that there were critical issues to protect Victoria College against adverse impacts of downward expansion and, despite these concerns, UH solved them and succeeded in establishing a four-year university.
The UH System does not want to build a new campus. The UH System and the Crossroads Commission on Education should have agreed to a long-term study about this plan including additional community participation. After all, when did local developers and politicians become experts in higher education to assert UH System priorities are not in Victoria's best interest?
The UH System is not in lock-step with Victoria's educational goals. For almost four decades, UHV has grown academically, gained academic achievements and recognition, constructed new facilities, introduced athletics and has initiated numerous programs and initiatives. Last year, UHV and Victoria welcomed freshmen and sophomores with a promise to raise funds to support these students. Remember Campaign Victoria? This was a commitment made by local leaders to the state Legislature and UHV.
Finally, what are the irreconcilable differences? Is it about development, money or politics? Lost in the arguments are the students. I recommend reading the economic impact report by Jerry Walker, commissioned by Victoria Economic Development Corporation, to realize it's about money.
The outputs in Walker's report project billions of dollars of economic impact to Victoria, if UHV builds a new $70 million campus. The flaw with this report is the outputs that project growth in enrollment, by 2020, more than 9,000 students; creation of 1,800 direct and indirect jobs; and a total economic impact, over 10 years, of more than $2.7 billion.
Walker's conclusions are fantastic but are they realistic? This is especially true if Victoria starts from scratch with a new university system, a rebranding campaign, different degree programs, less faculty, and replacing costly computer systems; or will there even be a sustainable supply of students with the financial wherewithal to support these economic assumptions?
The students in Walker's economic equation are the catalyst in achieving these results.
But who asked the students how they feel about doubling or tripling their tuition rates to pay for a new campus or to make up for state budget cuts to higher education?
Moreover, the students and faculty were never asked how they felt about changing university systems; and according to state Sen. Glenn Hegar and the mayor of Sugar Land, they support UH Sugar Land and Cinco Ranch (Katy) campuses remain with the UH System.
Victoria's partnership with UHV has been developed over decades, millions of dollars invested, lasting relationships between UHV and community support established, to just call it quits. Consequently, a university president's tenure at UHV is between five and seven years; President Tim Hudson's departure was imminent.
A separation from the UH System only dilutes the momentum for creating a destination university, frustrates the educational achievements already accomplished, and sends an incoherent message to state leaders who only just approved UHV's downward expansion.
It's time to resolve this divisiveness and work toward the successful educational attainment of our students.
I implore our leaders to stand down, redirect their resources toward resolution and withdraw House Bill 2556.
A win-win is attainable; but everyone needs to work together.
Emett Alvarez is a former University of Houston-Victoria president's advisory council member, former Victoria Chamber of Commerce chairman of the board and an economic development professional.