University’s goal daunting but possible

By 1the Advocate Editorial Board
May 17, 2014 at 12:17 a.m.

The start of every school year brings excitement and promise.

Forty years after its founding, the University of Houston-Victoria stands at the beginning again. The University of Houston System has formed a committee with the charge of creating a plan to make UHV a self-sustaining destination university.

This could be the start of a transformation that shapes UHV for the next century, if the community and the UH System truly collaborate and invest in the possible.

UHV is what those in higher education refer to as an access university, meaning it is affordable and tailored to students who might not otherwise be able to go to college.

Evidence of this can be seen in the first graduating class of freshmen who started at UHV in fall 2010. Before then, UHV served only upper-class and graduate students.

The Advocate profiled last week one of these graduates, Vanessa Plasencia, who had never heard of UHV while growing up in nearby Rosenberg. She came for a chance to play collegiate soccer but stayed for her degree in accounting. Although neither of her parents had graduated from high school, Plasencia found the support she needed at UHV to complete her degree on time and with minimal debt.

She is a shining example of how UHV can help Texas meet the goals of the "Closing the Gaps" report that calls for the state to provide higher education to 630,000 more residents. Designated as a Hispanic-serving institution based on its enrollment, UHV is positioned well to reflect the changing demographics of Texas.

The university's location in Victoria also is ideal, allowing it to recruit students from the Rio Grande Valley and from San Antonio, Austin, Corpus Christi and Houston. With the proper planning and commitment, UHV's enrollment could grow within 10 years to 10,000 or even 15,000 students.

In previous coverage, the Advocate has extensively documented the challenges for this to happen. More than half of UHV's revenues come from its extension programs, primarily based in Sugar Land. The UH Board of Regents voted earlier this year to restrict UHV from offering programs in the Houston suburb and to transfer its nursing school there to the UH System.

Ultimately, UHV has to grow in Victoria to truly become a destination university, a vibrant campus that stands out on its own merits. Getting there will require remarkable work not just by this new committee but also by the community, Victoria College and all of the best and brightest at UHV and in the UH System.

The committee is charged with planning a dramatic transformation. That's an exciting yet daunting challenge.

Committee leader Charlie Alcorn, a native Victorian whose roots run deeper than a 100-year-old oak tree, is the right person to lead the effort. But he'll need tremendous support for UHV to achieve its promise.

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



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