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First UHV transition meeting talks about enhancing student living, programs to survive

By Carolina Astrain , CAROLINA ASTRAN
Aug. 5, 2014 at 6:12 p.m.


CHRONOLOGY

Here are some of the key events leading to the University of Houston-Victoria's current position:

• 1973: The University of Houston-Victoria Center enrolls its first 100 students.

• April 1983: The Texas Legislature approves Senate Bill 235, giving the institution degree-granting status. The University of Houston-Victoria Center becomes the University of Houston-Victoria and the University of Houston System's fourth university.

• June 1994: UHV starts offering degrees at the Fort Bend County CentraPlex Center for Higher Education in Sugar Land, where a four-year degree was previously unavailable without taking additional classes elsewhere. UHV's fall enrollment of 1,616 is a 50 percent increase over 1993.

• May 2009: The Texas Legislature approves a bill by state Rep. Geanie Morrison allowing UHV to enroll freshmen and sophomores. UHV enrollment in fall 2008 is 3,173 students, a 14 percent growth over 2007.

November 2011: The UH System Board of Regents puts the Sugar Land campus under control of the UH System. UHV is allowed to continue to operate there as before. The university has about 4,300 students enrolled, of which 510 are residential.

• May 2013: The UH System Board of Regents spends nearly $5 million for land to expand the Victoria campus. This allows for the construction of a new academic building, which previous UHV President Tim Hudson had proposed building on a new greenfield campus site.

• Fall 2013: The UH Sugar Land Task Force is appointed. UHV's fall enrollment stands at 4,491 students.

• February 2014: The UH System Board of Regents approves the recommendations of the UH Sugar Land Task Force, which removes UHV's ability to offer programs in the Houston suburb within two to five years.

Source: UH System, UHV, Advocate LIBRARY

Dana Rooks motioned her hands in a 360-degree gesture to demonstrate the change the University of Houston-Victoria will need to make to survive as a four-year destination university.

"If UHV keeps operating the way it is, it's going to become a University of Phoenix instead of a four-year university," said Rooks, UH Sugar Land Transition Team executive director.

Several members of the audience cleared their throats during Rooks' closing remarks of her presentation at the transition team's first public meeting Tuesday night.

"I want you to leave here feeling pumped up and figure out what your role is in this transformation."

Despite Rooks' initial attempts to fire up the crowd, no applause came until the end of the two-hour presentation at the University of Houston-Victoria Multipurpose Room.

By 2019, the University of Houston-Victoria is expected to cease its operations out of the UH Sugar Land campus, cutting out a major part of its revenue stream. Additionally, the UHV School of Nursing's degree-granting ability - a program UHV developed seven years ago with the help of Victoria area donors - will be transferred to the UH main campus by next fall.

These changes were approved by the UH Board of Regents in February and resulted in a rift in trust between the UH System and Victoria leadership.

Of the public comments provided at Tuesday's meeting, Victoria Chamber of Commerce President Randy Vivian expressed some skepticism concerning the final report the UHV Work Group plans to submit to the UH System by October for review before going into the legislative session.

"I realize this committee is going to do a really good job," Vivian said. "My main concern is what weight is it going to carry, and is the system going to look at it for what it's meant to be and give us funds to implement it?"

Rooks said she has asked the UH System those same questions.

"It is a commitment that they've made because there's already been a large investment made," Rooks said.

Rooks said the community shouldn't think the UH System won't follow through and advised anyone wary should make sure the system keeps its promise.

Other subcommittees covering areas like funding, academic and student services, branding and vision and extension operations also shared their solutions with the crowd.

To enhance student recruitment efforts, Paula Cobler, marketing director for UHV, presented on behalf of the branding and vision subcommittee a new tagline for UHV - "Make Your Mark" - which will be displayed on billboards throughout the Crossroads.

For funding, Wayne Beran, UHV vice president of administration and finances, said much of the weight lies in the university's tuition revenue bond request for $130 million.

However, it's still too early to tell whether or not the Legislature will approve tuition revenue bonds for universities, said state Rep. Geanie Morrison.

"We are underserved in higher education in this area," Morrison said. "We need to work on improving our retention and bringing in more students."

In order to attract and retain more students, the university needs to make more room for its students, said Jay Lambert, UHV associate vice president for student affairs.

Last year, UHV saw a 15 percent increase in freshmen enrollment; this year, the university is expecting a 25 percent increase, and 1,300 to 1,400 students are expected to be on campus this year, Lambert said.

"We need a student center with a Subway and a Chick-fil-A and a little convenience store; we need a recreation center; we need a weight room; we need a cardio room," Lambert said. "We have a great group of students here ready to help, and we're excited to see where we're going to go as a campus."

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