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UHV prepares for years of growing enrollment with new housing, classrooms and major offerings

By KBell
July 18, 2011 at 2:18 a.m.
Updated July 19, 2011 at 2:19 a.m.


The University of Houston-Victoria continues to be one of the fastest-growing universities in Texas.

This year, UHV is expecting more than 400 freshmen, up from 218 students in last year's first freshman class. If all continues as planned, there could be more than 1,000 freshman and sophomore Jaguars by the 2014 school year.

The boom has UHV planning for ways to accommodate more students - including at least two new buildings planned to be constructed during the next few years.

Enrollment expectations were spelled out in UHV's Legislative Appropriations Request. The Legislature granted UHV money for the school's downward expansion during the next two years totaling $4.2 million, which is about 2/3 what the university requested for that special item, said Wayne Beran, the vice president for administration and finance.

This year's budget "will be somewhat larger, but it will not be what it would have been had we had better economic times," interim president Don Smith said.

THE ACADEMICS

UHV's operating budget will reach about $45.1 million this year. Almost half of that comes from tuition and fees. The rest comes from the state and grants and endowments, Beran said.

Next year's tuition for undergraduates taking 12 hours of courses will increase 3.95 percent, or a total of $90 per semester.

"The board of regents certainly does not want to pass the cost on to students, but it's simply the reality of trying to provide them with quality instruction and services," Smith said.

UHV is becoming increasingly dedicated to funding research, too. The research budget in 2009 was $9,000. It grew in 2010 and 2011 to $62,000, most of which went to salaries. The largest number of students at UHV are still upper-level graduate students, Smith pointed out.

"We have over the years attracted a more research-oriented faculty, and we have simply begun to put more emphasis on that part of faculty members' responsibilities."

The university is also planning to add a Spanish major to its offerings.

"It's simply a kind of natural fit for the institution, and in my judgment, one that has to do with simply our academic credibility as an institution," Smith said of the new major.

About 65 percent of the next freshman class could be considered part of a minority group. Smith said that's not surprising considering the demographics of where UHV focuses much of its recruiting, like Houston, San Antonio and around the Rio Grande Valley.

THE HOUSING

Nancy Garner, owner of Woolson Real Estate, said she's been excited to be a part of the university's growth that has welcomed a lot of first-generation students. Her company has secured apartments for potentially 80 sophomores.

"It will be fun to have some students," Garner said. "They have a certain energy that you lose if you grow older, and it's just nice to have that energy around."

Garner found vacant units in six apartment complexes near UHV, which are now reserved first for sophomore students. The apartments offer the normal amenities and are all closer than 1.2 miles from the campus.

Students are free to lease elsewhere, Garner said.

The state does not provide money for student housing, so those funds come from what students pay to live there.

"It's a rental business. It's a room and board business, in a sense," Smith said.

Freshmen, who are required to live on campus, will again be staying in the 252-capacity Jaguar Hall - a former hotel that was renovated last year.

To accommodate the rest of the freshmen class, UHV last week approved a two-year lease agreement with Regency Inn and Suites.

Soon to be called Jaguar Court, the makeshift dorm will house 170 students.

The manager at Regency Inn could not be reached for comment, but the Victoria Police Department said crime at the hotel has declined in the last few years.

"That area has gotten quieter," Assistant Police Chief Roy Boyd said. "Years ago there was criminal activity .... The businesses over there have taken the steps to prevent the criminal element."

THE FUTURE

The Legislature this year denied UHV's request for $61.5 million in tuition revenue bonds that would go toward the construction of a 150,000 square-foot classroom and office building to be built just northeast of the University Center building. The campus consists of only two buildings on 19 acres.

In its appropriations request, the university said it expects to run out of office and classroom space by 2015. Beran said UHV could construct a smaller building, but the university will ask again for the money in the next legislative session.

"If we continue to grow as fast as we think we will, we'll ask for another building after that," he said.

Another sophomore apartment-style dormitory is in the works, too.

If approved by the board, the 250-bed Jaguar Suites will be ready for the 2013 school year.

The $11.3 million project will be built in the vacant lot between Jaguar Hall and Jaguar Court.

UHV is nearing an agreement to purchase 2.5 acres of land behind that empty lot that would serve as parking for the dorms, Beran said.

Those plans sound just fine for UHV sophomore Candace Hahn. She lives in Inez and won't be staying in dorms, but she's onto what Garner said about the UHV energy.

"I was always one of the students who wanted to go off to school, but now that (UHV) expanded, it gave me an opportunity to get a good, decent education close to home."

The 22-year-old said she thinks the expansion is adding more of the student experience she was looking for in her higher education experience.

"We want the growth. We want to have that kind of college life," Hahn said. "It's not only going to help the students, it's going to help Victoria's economy as well."

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