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How does UH System react to Morrison's bill?

By Gabe Semenza
March 8, 2011 at 10:01 p.m.
Updated March 7, 2011 at 9:08 p.m.


WHY A&M?

During the past several months, Victoria supporters of switching university systems courted representatives from both the Texas A&M and Texas Tech university systems.

Both systems showed interest in the University of Houston-Victoria. So, why did leaders choose A&M?

First, Morrison said, the A&M system is nearby, a convenience during the transition and for fostering strong relationships going forward.

Additionally, A&M has a strong track record of working successfully to grow rural universities and partner with community colleges.

Donald Day, a Victoria businessman, said leaders would have been happy with either system.

"We just thought in the end our success might have been a little bit improved with A&M because of geography," Day said.

While the University of Houston System won't admit it publicly, chances are strong it will fight hard against legislation filed Tuesday.

For months, the system has countered concerns from Victoria civic and business leaders, who say the system doesn't have this campus's best interests at heart.

On Tuesday, those concerns became official. Rep. Geanie Morrison filed a bill asking the Texas Legislature to move the University of Houston-Victoria into the Texas A&M University System.

The switch would end an almost four-decades-long relationship between the University of Houston-Victoria and its host system.

"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," said Carroll Ray and Renu Khator, the system's board of regents chairwoman and chancellor. "We believe the UH System remains the best partner for UHV and its students."

The women agreed to comment only in a prepared statement.

They added: "We are mindful that our first priority must be to chart a course that serves the best interests of the state of Texas. We remain firmly committed to a destination university in Victoria. We will work closely with the Legislature to ensure that the higher education needs of Victoria residents and all of Texas are fully served."

Because state agencies and boards of regents are prohibited from advocating for or against the passage of legislation, Ray and Khator declined further comment. Don Smith, the interim University of Houston-Victoria president, followed suit.

Grover Campbell, the university system's lobbyist, was more talkative. Campbell was in Austin on Tuesday, as were Khator and Ray.

Campbell said the system will still ask the state for $61.5 million in tuition revenue bonds, or money - if granted - that would be spent on a new Victoria campus.

A sticking point between both sides during the last year is growth of the campus. Victoria leaders want the landlocked campus moved to a new location; university system members say the existing site works just fine.

"The University of Houston-Victoria is currently part of the UH system, and we have our request in," Campbell said. "We will continue to work to secure funding for these requests."

While the Legislature will now determine if Morrison's bill passes, the president of Victoria College said he's prepared to work with either university system.

"What's important for Victoria College is our students have a local university to transfer to, and we're prepared to work with whoever the university is," said Tom Butler, the community college president.

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