Advocate editorial board opinion: UH shows signs of recognizing UHV potential

Aug. 16, 2014 at 11:42 a.m.

The University of Houston Sugar Land Transition Team's first public hearing Aug. 5 produced a few insights. Most of those in attendance have been following the transition closely, and it wasn't new information. To the larger community who didn't attend, it is important you realize the importance of standing together to hold the UH system accountable to the outcomes of this transition process. The success of creating a destination university requires a united effort, and we look forward to the show of that support at the next public meeting.

University of Houston-Victoria officials spent two hours recapping who is on the committees and what their charge is, something the public already knew. However, a couple of nuggets emerged from the statements of the lone UH System representative who attended, Dana Rooks, who heads the transition efforts.

•  Rooks, UH dean of libraries, said a recent study showed UHV is at the "heart of the most underserved higher education market in Texas."

•  When asked whether the system would actually act upon the team's recommendations, Rooks said, "In short, yes."

For UHV supporters frustrated by years of UH System non-answers and neglect, these comments represented a subtle yet significant shift. Could UH actually be starting to recognize the opportunity for higher education in the Crossroads?

Crossroads community leaders have been pushing this message since before 2010, when they persuaded the Legislature to authorize the expansion of UHV despite opposition from UH.

Rooks is the appointed leader of the transition team, so UHV supporters should hold the UH System to her words. They are much more reassuring than the team document, which says the thought paper, scheduled to be produced in October, is "not a commitment."

The Crossroads community deserves commitments and answers to these questions and more raised by the transition of the Sugar Land campus away from UHV control:

•  What is the total revenue tied to UHV's presence outside of Victoria? How will the financial impact of that revenue loss be made up by the UH System?

•  Is UHV being prohibited from offering programs outside of Victoria (either online or in person), and if so, why?

•  Is it feasible to have 6,000 face-to-face students on the existing campus? Are other locations being considered?

• How will UHV capitalize on Texas' "most underserved education market?"

•  And will the UH System formally respond to the team's report, which has been inadequately named a "thought paper" by those who formed the group? If so, when will this response be forthcoming?

Rooks made a few comments that were puzzling to many in attendance and highlight the gap in communication and understanding between the UH System and Victoria. For example, she said if Victoria wants a destination university, then the community needs to "get on board and make it happen." It is difficult to understand how UH could possibly have the perspective that Victoria is not on board with creating a destination university, given how hard community leaders have battled to get support from the System.

Rooks endorsed UHV's goal of having 6,000 on-campus students by 2025, saying, "Now what needs to happen ... is to create a destination, self-sustaining, comprehensive four-year university for the Victoria region."

UHV anticipates having about 1,400 students on campus when classes start in a couple of weeks. An additional 4,600 students in 10 years is a goal all Crossroads leaders embrace. It also aligns perfectly with the state's "Closing the Gaps" goal for higher education.

Perhaps Rooks' two nuggets represent some understanding by UH that Victoria can yet be a gold mine for higher education in South Texas and beyond.

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



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