Not a warm Welcome: UHV supporters frustrated by regent chairman's remarks


May 29, 2010 at 12:29 a.m.

Some members of the Crossroads Commission on Education are frustrated with University of Houston System Board of Regents Chairman Welcome Wilson's recent remarks.

Wilson met with the commission in an informal meeting after the UH System board meeting in Victoria on May 18, where the commission gave him mini-presentations on research they have gathered.

While Wilson said he supported the commission's core purpose, which is to improve the area's educational attainment to achieve the state's "Closing the Gaps" initiative by 2015, he declined the commission's request to ask the legislature for funding for the University of Houston-Victoria to get its own campus.

Wilson said at the meeting that UHV must increase its current enrollment to show the legislature there is a need for building and land expansion.

Commission member Claud Jacobs was not satisfied with Wilson's remarks.

"I sure am frustrated because it means so much to Victoria," said Jacobs, who is also a partner of Lodestone Financial Services. "Of all the projects that Victoria has going, this could be the biggest economic event in Victoria."

Wilson was not available to comment on the commission's reactions Friday.

The UH System board is reviewing the commission's research and verifying it with its own experts.

"We have not yet heard back anything formally from University of Houston System board of regents," said Bill Blanchard, the commission's co-chair. "We'll await their response."

Such research from the commission given to the board includes how to improve education for students from pre-birth through a college degree, scholarship models, career pathways, jobs that will be in demand for the future, demographics, and - the controversial item - what steps to take to make UHV a destination university.

State Rep. Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria, head of the commission, has said she'd prefer the commission be pro-active, not reactive, to the Crossroads' future educational needs.

Having a plan is crucial to address ways of improving all levels of educational attainment to have a more educated workforce, as well as to obtain funding from the state, Morrison said.

"If there's not good planning and an institution gets in a situation where they come to the legislature for an emergency appropriation, there may not be funds," Morrison said. "That's why it's so important that institutions plan for the future."

With Wilson's remarks in mind, the commission will spend its next meeting Tuesday discussing what to do next.

Based on the subcommittees' research, the commission is expected to put together a draft of its recommendations. Morrison might take the commission's recommendations to the legislature for action.

The commission also hopes it can come to an agreement with the UH System board.

"At this point, we have been part of the University of Houston System since the school began," Morrison said. "That is why we are going to work with the system and tell them what we can do to help close the gaps through education."

Jacobs said one possible option in the university's future could be parting ways with the UH System.

"I told the board of regents that other university systems have contacted local businessmen about locating a campus in Victoria," Jacobs said. "There's a saying my coach at The University of Texas told me, 'dance with who brung ya.' We would rather be with the university system. But if your dance partner leaves, then you have to find somebody else to dance with."

Morrison said she has not spoken to other systems who have expressed interest in acquiring UHV.

"I can understand how any other system would be interested in this university, because it's very successful, and not only successful, but academically it is rated very high," Morrison said. "It is strategically located to attract and educate the population we need to attract. That is all, of course, the stated goal of Closing the Gaps."



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