Series answers questions about UHV, A&M switch

Gabe Semenza

March 9, 2011 at 6:03 p.m.
Updated March 8, 2011 at 9:09 p.m.

Proposed legislation that could move the University of Houston-Victoria into the Texas A&M University System spurred an abundance of questions this week.

Rep. Geanie Morrison filed HB 2556 on Tuesday. If passed, the bill would change the Victoria university's name to the University of Texas A&M-Victoria, and move everything and everyone under its umbrella into the A&M system.

In the first of an ongoing series, we ask and answer questions that weigh on the community's mind.

Q: Would a system switch increase tuition costs?

"No," Morrison said. "Tuition is recommended by each campus regardless of system in an independent process that involves considerable input from students. It is then approved - or not - by system boards and varies from university to university in every system. UHV tuition is among the lowest in the state and would most likely remain so due to its particular budgetary realities, program mix, cost of doing business, enrollment patterns, etc."

Q: How would a system switch affect the status of current students?

According to Section 5 of Morrison's bill: "... this Act does not affect the status of any student of the university."

"All students would be able to continue their current majors," Morrison said.

Don Smith, interim UHV president, agreed.

"Now, if a student is a major in 'XYZ' and is within a year of graduating, will that degree say 'A&M' or will that degree say 'UHV' next year?" Smith said. "I don't have the answer to that."

Q: Would A&M, as the school's new host system, cut current curriculum?

Jason Cook, a spokesman for the A&M System, said it is premature for the system to answer such questions, and that pending legislation prohibits him from discussing more specific topics.

Smith, however, said he does not foresee the A&M System cutting current UHV curriculum.

"It would be unconscionable to have a student enter college and then have a student halfway into a major and tell them they can't finish that major," Smith said. "That just wouldn't work at all."

Morrison reassured students by saying no programs would be cut immediately just because of a system switch.

"UHV's 'menu' of degree programs would not change immediately," she said. "However, it could be augmented over time based on need and possible collaborations with A&M universities. All universities constantly review their program mix based on numerous factors."

Q: How would realignment affect former students with UHV diplomas?

Smith, the interim UHV president, said alumni of Victoria's university should not worry. Although he is unclear about the arrangements that would be worked out, he has experience with university name changes.

"I imagine students would be offered the chance to keep their UHV diploma or to transfer to an A&M diploma," he said. "I know in my experiences, alumni were offered the opportunity of being issued a new degree certificate or diploma with the current name of the university."

Q: How would realignment affect current UHV faculty and staff?

According to Morrison's bill: "... this Act does not affect the employment status or accrued benefits of a person employed by the university when the transfer takes effect."

The bill later notes its intention is to switch systems "without disrupting the students, faculty, staff or programs of the university."

Q: How will news of realignment efforts affect UHV's ability to offer job contracts in coming months?

"It won't affect signing contracts because the bill provides that any contracts that are made by the institution, or any obligations incurred by the UH System, would be honored," Smith said. "That much being said, we do have an obligation as an institution to let applicants know that this bill has been filed because it may or may not affect their consideration of the university - whether they are a student or potential employee."



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