Dale Fowler: 'It will the take community to get it done'

March 22, 2011 at 5:03 p.m.
Updated March 21, 2011 at 10:22 p.m.

My January article addressed the importance of having an educated workforce when it comes to the long-term sustained economic viability of a community, state or nation.

I can think of no more significant project that would benefit the Victoria region as much as a growing, thriving destination university beaming with thousands of students on campus.

On March 8, Rep. Geanie Morrison gave Victoria the opportunity to make the dream of a destination university a reality by filing HB 2556 in the Texas House. The bill would replace the University of Houston-Victoria with Texas A&M University-Victoria.

A few years ago, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board adopted a higher education plan for the state called "Closing the Gaps by 2015." The plans aim to increase the number of students who attend and graduate with degrees or certifications from a college and/or technical school.

Part of their strategy to accelerate the plan is to focus on the growing Hispanic student population. Studies acknowledge the correlation between an individual's education or training and their earning capacity. It is recognized that the only way Texas maintains a competitive edge in attracting new jobs is through "closing the gaps" in higher education attainment.

Victoria is uniquely positioned to attract the growing population of Hispanic students by being well placed between four metro areas - Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Corpus Christi. A university system like Texas A&M University (TAMU) will give Victoria the opportunity to plan for long-range growth and increased student enrollment.

While our current system, the University of Houston System, is a respected system, it is focused primarily on becoming the best metropolitan university system in the nation.

TAMU, on the other hand, has a history of being a good partner with smaller communities. Partnering with a university system that will embrace the growth that can occur here will provide local students as well as those in the region the educational opportunities needed to strengthen the economic stability of our state.

Some have suggested the initiative to change systems is motivated by economic development, and I would agree. There is no way to separate the tremendous economic impact several thousand college students will have on our region as they live and spend money in local restaurants, theaters and shops.

Additionally, the presence of a large student population becomes an additional tool to attract new industry to our community. Corporations seek to land in communities that boast of an educated workforce.

Finally, let's not forget the economic impact on the individual student - your student and future students in Victoria. Providing them outstanding educational opportunities at home with the potential for good jobs will give them reason to remain in our community.

The change of university systems is a community issue and it will take the community to get it done. I encourage you to join the growing number of people who are sending email letters in support of HB 2556 to:

Rep. Geanie Morrison - geanie.morrison@house.state.tx.us.

Sen. Glenn Hegar - glenn.hegar@senate.state.tx.us.

They need to hear from you. When sending your email, include your name and address, and give them your reasons why you want to see the change in university systems in Victoria from UH to TAMU.

D. Dale Fowler is president of the Victoria Economic Development Corp.



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