Hegar backs Sugar Land transition from UHV

May 9, 2011 at 12:09 a.m.

State Sen. Glenn Hegar supports a proposal that could shake up the University of Houston-Victoria's operations by transitioning the Sugar Land learning center to the main campus.

Hegar, a Katy Republican whose district includes Victoria and Sugar Land, backs the move in part because it would create degree opportunities for residents of the Houston suburb and elsewhere, he said.

"... All three campuses under UHV - Victoria, Sugar Land and Katy - have the ability to increase in presence and status," Hegar said via email. "The citizens of Texas and students, who are seeking a degree, will suffer if people view decisions about the three campuses in the context of a win for one is a loss for another."

The University of Houston System proposes making the UH System at Sugar Land a branch of its main campus, the University of Houston. Hegar said he asked the system a year ago to increase the presence of its member schools in his district.

Students enrolled in UHV programs at the UH System at Sugar Land and UH System at Cinco Ranch count toward the Victoria university's population.

Half of UHV's faculty and more than half of its students, in fact, reside in Harris and Fort Bend counties and take courses online and in those centers. The Sugar Land center is mainly comprised of UHV-affiliated students and faculty.

Many leaders in Sugar Land have for years pushed for its multi-institution learning center - a facility where more than one school offers classes - to become a freestanding university. Sugar Land is a fast-growing, wealthy city that argues it deserves a stronger voice at the table.

But what would the cost be to UHV, the school that stepped in to offer several degrees programs via the Sugar Land center when the main campus did not? Fewer UHV-affiliated students could mean less funding and fewer programs for the university.

If the transition occurs, UHV will continue to teach certain programs in Sugar Land, although those programs and the duration of their existence is unknown at this time.

"The transition will be done in a way to minimize the impact on UHV," Richard Bonnin, a UH System spokesman, said in an email. "The proposal you reference is one of many options available to the UH System. In no way has a decision been made."

The system could not transition Sugar Land without the Legislature's authorization, Bonnin added.

Many leaders in Victoria saw this day coming. They started the push to grow the Victoria campus, in part, because so much of UHV depended upon serving students in Houston.

Core concerns remain among those who want UHV to move into the A&M System, an aim set forth in legislation filed in March by state Rep. Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria.

"As I've always said, I'm concerned that our vision in Victoria does not match the UH System, which is focusing on becoming a metropolitan university," Victoria Mayor Will Armstrong said. "Sugar Land is part of metropolitan Houston. Victoria is not. I'm much more concerned about us building a destination university here in Victoria, and I know we can if we have a partner who shares our vision."

Hegar has said he opposes the inclusion of the Sugar Land and Cinco Ranch learning centers if UHV transfers to the A&M System. He also said a decision that benefits one campus should not be to the detriment of another.

"Pitting one against another is divisive and serves absolutely no purpose," Hegar said. "Obviously, efforts by UH to improve the Victoria campus have ceased for the last few months due to the legislative effort ... That issue must be resolved, and I suspect that we will have a definitive direction to pursue after this summer."



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