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Is push for UHV/A&M switch about money?

By Gabe Semenza
March 16, 2011 at 4:05 p.m.
Updated March 15, 2011 at 10:16 p.m.


HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BILL?

Contact Advocate Public Service Editor Gabe Semenza at gsemenza@vicad.com or 361-580-6519.

ABOUT THIS SERIES

In the seventh part of an ongoing series, the Advocate answers questions related to HB 2556, legislation filed last week by Rep. Geanie Morrison.

If passed, the bill would change the University of Houston-Victoria's name to Texas A&M University-Victoria, and move everything and everyone under its umbrella into the A&M system.

Q: Are efforts grounded solely in economic development wishes?

Some opponents of switching systems say efforts to do so are more about boosting the Victoria economy than bolstering student education levels.

What do leaders, who want the switch, say to this argument?

Supporters of a switch say growing the university with a different system could offer greater accessibility to education - and an economic shot to the region. State Rep. Geanie Morrison said the two can go hand-in -hand.

Dale Fowler, president of the Victoria Economic Development Corp., agreed.

"We believe a better educated populous is, in and of itself, a significant economic driver," Fowler said.

Education is key when Fowler tries to attract new companies to Victoria - those companies often want an educated workforce, he said - and when graduates start businesses of their own.

"It's exactly what the state of Texas needs and demands with its Close the Gaps initiative," Fowler said.

Fowler this week sent an e-mail to Victoria residents and business leaders. In it, he asked for their support of the bill and cited a study that details the economic effect if the Victoria university expands.

The study - viewable by visiting www.VictoriaAdvocate.com and clicking the Crowdsourcing blog - suggests: "The economic impact of the operations of the university over 10 years of the expansion will be $2.78 billion."

Mayor Will Armstrong said that while economic benefits of expansion exist, the push for growth accompanies improvements to the city's primary and secondary schools.

"We upgraded our primary and secondary education with the successful passage of the $159 million bond election," said Armstrong. "We have brand new primary and secondary schools. We're continuing those efforts by working to improve our higher education."

Without an educated workforce, he continued, young adults - a group he calls one of the city's best resources - will continue to migrate elsewhere.

"There's nothing that determines the health and welfare of modern economy than educational attainment of the workforce," the mayor said. "People might say we're doing this for economic reasons, but I'm more concerned for having opportunities for young people. I'm more concerned about our grandchildren than I am about the immediate benefits of economic development."

Q: How many students attend UHV?

During the past five years, UHV has enjoyed record enrollment growth.

Enrollment grew by 58 percent - from 2,652 students in fall 2006 to 4,188 students today - according to school records.

Part of that enrollment growth includes students in Sugar Land and Cinco Ranch.

Face-to-face and distance learning students enrolled in UHV programs at Sugar Land and Cinco Ranch are counted toward UHV's total student population.

The majority of faculty members who teach and students who attend classes via those centers are UHV affiliated.

The breakdown of UHV's population, then, is as follows. Of today's 4,188 UHV students:

2,015 take online-only courses.

1,375 take UHV-affiliated classes at the Sugar Land and Cinco Ranch campuses.

400 attend classes in person in Victoria and online.

334 students attend in-person classes only in Victoria.

64 students attend via other combinations of classes, including students who are also primary or secondary school teachers.

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