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UH system takes steps to meet community needs

By BY JARVIS HOLLINGSWORTH
March 15, 2014 at 4:05 p.m.
Updated March 14, 2014 at 10:15 p.m.

Jarvis Hollingsworth is the chairman of the UH System Board of Regents.

Each of the four universities and six multi-institution regional campuses that comprise the University of Houston (UH) System community has a distinct mission and plays an integral role in serving the educational needs of the greater Houston region and the state of Texas.

While their missions are distinct, the UH System institutions share common goals and are collegial and collaborative. The UH System Board of Regents, which governs all 10 of the public institutions of higher learning within the UH System, was mindful of this when it approved the final report of the UH Sugar Land Task Force.

Public discussion by UH System officials and action by the board of regents to make UH Sugar Land a branch campus of UH have been ongoing since 2011, when regents transferred the administrative functions of UH Sugar Land to UH. The recent board of regents' action is the next step in the planned process to make UH the sole UH System institution delivering programs at the UH Sugar Land campus.

To that end, UH is planning to expand or launch approximately 22 programs in Sugar Land and relocate a large segment of its College of Technology to the UH Sugar Land campus. As UH expands programs at Sugar Land, the University of Houston-Victoria and UH-Clear Lake will incrementally cease delivery of their courses at the Sugar Land campus. The existing nursing program that UHV has offered at UH Sugar Land will be transferred to UH and become part of the newly organized UH Health Science Center.

As regents, it is our responsibility to always consider what is in the best interests of all of the institutions in the UH System. Important safeguards have been put in place to ensure that the pathway for UHV to become a destination university in the city of Victoria remains unimpeded.

Three key provisions of the UH Sugar Land Task Force's report address this important principle. In implementing the plan by which UH will become the exclusive provider of baccalaureate and graduate degrees at the Sugar Land campus, regents directed that "no current student be left stranded, that no existing faculty contract be violated and that the University of Houston-Victoria be furnished with adequate funds to carry out its important mission to become a destination university in the city of Victoria."

Even with these stringent guidelines, it is understandable that some would question the rationale for this major change in the delivery of off-campus instruction. This is particularly true regarding the successful UHV nursing program.

Thoughtful analysis shows that the UHV nursing program is highly dependent upon its facilities in Sugar Land. It is important that the nursing program at UH Sugar Land be expanded to include both master's and doctoral degrees. These are among the factors that led to the decision to include the existing nursing program at UH Sugar Land in the newly organized UH Health Science Center. This does not preclude UHV continuing with certain nursing programs in Victoria.

The UH System continues to highly value UHV. Legislation and the board of regents' action authorizing downward expansion (classes for freshmen and sophomores) coupled with increased online course offerings have increased the school's enrollment by more than 64 percent in the last five years. This has transformed UHV into a dynamic destination university in the Coastal Bend region of Texas. We support UHV and want to see it continue to grow.

In the near future, the UH Sugar Land Transition Committee will be created. The committee will include UH System, UH Sugar Land and UHV leadership along with selected UH, UH Sugar Land and UHV faculty and students. This committee will address many of the questions that have arisen since the Feb. 26 board meeting and will conduct two public meetings - one in Sugar Land and one in Victoria.

Steps are being implemented to create opportunities for the public to submit questions and comments to the UH System. For example, an informational website has been developed, and Chancellor Renu Khator and Senior Vice Chancellor Paula Myrick Short will continue to engage with UH Sugar Land and UHV faculty.

These steps are being taken to ensure faculty, staff, students and alumni at all of our UH System institutions are informed about this transition plan, which will take place over the next two to five years. On behalf of the UH System Board of Regents, I ask that anyone with questions, concerns or ideas share those through the website or during the meetings that will be scheduled soon. I also ask that the UH Sugar Land Transition Committee be given the time it needs to accomplish its important work.

Jarvis Hollingsworth is the chairman of the UH System Board of Regents.

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