Advocate Editorial Board opinion: UHV at a crossroads with future of nursing

By the Advocate Editorial Board
July 26, 2014 at 2:26 a.m.

The Crossroads community invested heavily in the creation and growth of the University of Houston-Victoria School of Nursing in 2007.

That's why the University of Houston's decision earlier this year to take the school from UHV alarmed community leaders. The move appears to be a serious setback to efforts to turn UHV, which began 40 years ago as a UH teaching center, into a full-fledged destination university.

A strong nursing school is an excellent foundation for a growing, vibrant university in a city that is a regional medical hub. Clearly, that's why UH, which previously didn't have a nursing school, was attracted to what UHV had created.

The Victoria-based M.G. and Lillie A. Johnson Foundation has given the nursing school almost $1.7 million, or 44 percent of total donations to the school to date.

The foundation and other Crossroads leaders gave to UHV with the intention of building nursing training in Victoria - not Houston.

UH offers no indication it will reverse its decision, so the best the community can do is look forward and hold UH officials accountable for their promise that UHV will not be harmed by the change and will, in fact, be supported in its efforts to grow in Victoria.

In making this change and others restricting UHV's ability to offer programs in Sugar Land, UH has formed several committees to lead the transition. Ideally, the team will find a way to rebuild a school of nursing in Victoria after UHV's program is absorbed by UH in the fall of 2015.

That approach would be in keeping with UH's promise. One step in that direction is last week's announcement that UHV has formed an agreement with Victoria College, which has long offered a strong registered nursing program.

The agreement extends a previous deal UHV and VC had set up to allow RN graduates to continue their education at UHV, which offers a bachelor's in nursing. Such strong collaboration between VC and UHV is critical for both institutions of higher learning to thrive.

The new deal offered an extra benefit to students of keeping tuition at community college levels while they work on their four-year degrees. That's good news for Crossroads students.

What remains unknown for the Crossroads, though, is whether this will be good news for creating a destination university in Victoria. Starting in fall 2015, these students would be taking courses in the UH School of Nursing. Not UHV.

UHV has worked for 40 years to become more than a teaching center for UH.

Many Crossroads leaders have hesitated to give to UHV because they are uncertain about the Victoria campus' identity and mission, said Robert Halepeska, vice president of the Johnson Foundation. The transition committees, which are scheduled to issue their reports in October, would be wildly successful if they cleared up this high level of uncertainty.

Ultimately, though, the committees' work will mean nothing if UH leaders do not strongly support their recommendations and provide clear and specific steps for realizing them.

UH's announcement Friday of plans to expand the Victoria campus is a step in the right direction, but the system has much ground to cover to ease people's minds.

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



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