Advocate editorial board opinion: Victoria campus needs long-range plan

By the Advocate Editorial Board
March 20, 2012 at 5:03 p.m.
Updated March 19, 2012 at 10:20 p.m.

Higher education is growing rapidly in Texas, as the state tries to accommodate the demand for more students. That's an exciting prospect for a newly minted university town - if we are able to share in that growth.

The University of Houston-Victoria's newly updated master plan provides for substantial growth during the next eight years. However, it lacks vision for how growth can be achieved beyond then.

The Victoria campus is landlocked, meaning enrollment could be capped by 2020, the last year in which UH offers any concrete plans. That's concerning because the potential is there to grow greatly beyond the 2,600 full-time students UH projects to have on campus in Victoria in 2020.

As UHV's new president Philip Castille and his predecessors have said, Victoria is ideally located to take advantage of the demand for a destination university between Houston, San Antonio, Austin and Corpus Christi. The possibilities of higher education growth can be seen a short distance up the highway in San Marcos, where Southwest Texas State University went from a student enrollment of 2,600 students in 1960 to becoming Texas State University with a campus of 34,000 students.

To come even close to such growth, a university needs a long-range plan. Some community leaders are concerned the UH System still hasn't provided that vision. The key concern, of course, is how UHV can accommodate growth to even 10,000 students on a landlocked campus of 19 acres. Already, UHV has been forced to put dormitories across a highway from campus to make room; this makeshift arrangement creates safety concerns.

At a meeting Tuesday of Victoria economic development leaders, Castille emphasized the UH System's commitment to creating a destination university here. The location of the dormitories was a short-term solution to an immediate need and could change as the campus grows, he said.

Most importantly, he said, the UH System sees the Victoria campus as its key alternative to students wanting a destination university setting outside the Houston metropolitan area. No other system can offer this opportunity, he said.

During his talk, Castille referred to the recent appearance at a Victoria chamber luncheon by Texas A&M chancellor John Sharp, who said he would like to see the Victoria campus join his system. The community has hotly debated this issue for the past two years, culminating with state Rep. Geanie Morrison's introduction of a bill last session to make such a switch. The bill died in committee, but the talk continues in the community.

UHV's new president clearly wants to re-establish trust with the community and stop any movement for more legislation in next year's session. He wants the community to know he came here to build a destination university.

Victoria is in the enviable position of being supported publicly by one major university system and courted by another. A long-range plan is the critical and overdue next step.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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