Bill awaits governor’s signature
After a vote on Tuesday by the Texas Senate, only the governor’s signature is needed for the University of Houston-Victoria to add underclassmen.
The Senate passed House Bill 1056, a bill that will allow UHV to admit freshmen and sophomores. The House previously passed the bill. Both houses of the Texas Legislature must pass an identical version of a bill for it to become law.
“We stand on the eve of the single biggest event in the history of UHV since its founding more than 35 years ago,” UHV President Tim Hudson said. “I’d like to personally thank everyone, including our state and community leaders and members of the UHV family, for their perseverance and commitment. We’re almost to our goal of creating a true destination university in this wonderful location, and we never could have come this far without such strong and consistent advocacy.”
Hudson specifically mentioned Rep. Geanie Morrison and Sen. Glenn Hegar, who introduced the legislation in their respective state houses.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry is expected to sign the bill soon. If he does, UHV will recruit its first 190 underclassmen for the fall semester of 2010.
Students and community members expressed great excitement about today’s events.
“This is wonderful news!” said Kristen Lindley, 2008-2009 UHV Student Senate president. “Students have supported this move from the very first time President Hudson spoke to us about it. Many of us have worked hard to reach this point. The day the governor signs this bill will be a great day for students everywhere.”
The expansion will benefit more than just students and potential students, a local business official said.
“The expansion of UHV will have a transformative effect on our area and its economy,” said Dale Fowler, executive director of the Victoria Economic Development Corp. “A four-year university is a green industry and an engine for economic growth that brings with it great social and cultural benefits. This move will improve the lives of everyone in this region.”
Fowler added that he looks forward to celebrating with community members when the governor makes things official.
The effort to convert UHV to a four-year institution started after Hudson arrived in 2004. He appointed several in-house committees to examine the benefits and challenges of such a move and how it would affect UHV’s plans for the future.
Led by UHV Chief of Staff Margaret Rice, the research involved visits with several institutions that had undertaken similar expansions and numerous discussions that included local citizens. In the fall of 2008, those efforts led to the forming of a 17-member Commission on Expanding Access to Higher Education made up of representatives from the UH System, UHV, The Victoria College, and local community and education leaders. The commission, which met four times in September, was charged with exploring how best to serve the educational needs of the region.
After a public hearing attended by more than 400 supporters and a pledge of $190,000 in new scholarships by community members, the commission unanimously voted at its final meeting to recommend the expansion of UHV. The recommendation, which carried the endorsements of UH System Board of Regents Chairman Welcome Wilson and UH System Chancellor Renu Khator, was approved by the UHS Board of Regents in October. Tom Butler, The Victoria College president and a Commission member, also gave his support.
“Along this historic path, many people have come to share this dream of making UHV a true destination university and have stepped up to support it,” Hudson said. “Future generations of Victorians will be indebted to the power of this collective vision.”
Randy Vivian, president of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce and a UHV graduate, was one of the early advocates for expansion.
“When a group of community members first came to us with the idea of turning Victoria into a college town, we knew this could be something epic in the story of our community,” Vivian said.
Vivian polled his chamber members and found in January of 2008 that more than 90 percent supported adding underclassmen. Vivian was among several community members who testified before the Texas House and Senate Higher Education committees in favor of the bill.
“I was honored to be a part of it,” Vivian said. “Dr. Hudson, his team and all the UHV supporters in the community have done a great job in making all this happen.”
Around this time, a number of area leaders began writing letters to the editor and submitting them to the Victoria Advocate in support of the concept. The writers included Dorothy Alcorn, a former member of the UH System Board of Regents.
“Victoria is beautifully situated to be a quintessential college town,” the lifelong Victoria resident said upon hearing about the Legislature’s approval. “This city has an uncanny way of re-inventing itself with the right vision and the right leadership at the right time. This expansion is a perfect addition to that legacy.”
The UHV Faculty Senate passed a resolution in January of 2008 in support of expansion.
“Those of us who teach the students at UHV have always known that we are a part of something very special here,” said Dan Jaeckle, UHV Faculty Senate president, English professor and Commission member. “We have supported from the beginning the chance to open up this opportunity to more students.”
Both the Victoria City Council and the Victoria County Commissioners Court passed resolutions in support of downward expansion in the spring of 2008.
“The council members and I wanted to be on the record as being fully behind this initiative,” said Victoria Mayor Will Armstrong, who also testified in Austin. “I want to thank the Legislature for a wise decision and thank Dr. Hudson and everyone at UHV for their hard work to get us to where we are today.”
Victoria County Judge Don Pozzi expressed similar thoughts.
“This expansion offers so much potential to this community that the commissioners and I wanted to support it in any way we could,” Pozzi said. “On behalf of the commissioners and myself, I want to tell the Legislature and everyone who played a role in getting us this far, ‘Well done.’”
During a public meeting of the Commission in September, member and local businesswoman Janey Lack stunned the crowd by announcing she’d secured pledges for the $100,000 in scholarships in a mere 10 days.
“When the people of this area heard what we were trying to do and what it would mean for the future of our community, they donated generously,” Lack said. “The money was gathered to show the strength and determination behind the effort to expand UHV. These gifts speak to the fabric of this community and will help change all our futures for the better.”
The hearings also saw Hernan Jaso, UHV President’s Regional Advisory Board chair, make a promise that he has repeated many times since, including in front of the Legislature. “I told them if they would give us a four-year UHV, I would guarantee I’d bring them the Hispanic students we all hope will be involved in higher education in increasing numbers,” Jaso said. “I’m looking forward to keeping that promise.”
This outpouring of community support helped convince senior leaders in the UH System to support expanding UHV.
“I was pleased with the level of enthusiastic support from the Victoria business, government and civic communities,” said Wilson, UH System board chair. “I also was pleased to recommend approval of this initiative to the Board of Regents. I want to thank Representative Morrison and Senator Hegar for getting approval in the 2009 Legislature.”
Hudson said the expansion wasn’t the only big news in the works at the campus.
“In addition to adding underclassmen, we are working on several other initiatives that will make UHV an innovative leader in the world of higher education and a perfect choice for a growing number of students,” he said. “We aim to be the linchpin of social and economic development for this community for decades to come.”
About UHV and upper-level institutions
UHV’s expansion will leave only one upper-level university in Texas and a total of three in the country.
UHV was founded in 1973 as one of several upper-level institutions created to allow community college students better access to bachelor’s and master’s degrees. About 30 such schools were created across the country at the time. The University of Houston-Clear Lake is the only such institution remaining in Texas.
The university has evolved from a center borrowing space from The Victoria College to a rapidly growing institution of almost 3,300 students at face-to-face locations in Sugar Land, Katy and Victoria, and online. The university graduates about 700 students annually. UHV boasts a nationally recognized business school, international relationships with colleges from Mexico to China, a nationally ranked athletics program, a new nursing school, innovative teacher preparation programs, endowed research chairs, and continuing double-digit annual enrollment percentage growth.
It also houses several internationally known academic enterprises, including the literary publication American Book Review, which brings world-famous authors to Victoria as part of its reading series; the theoretical thought organization Society for Critical Exchange; and the independent publishing press Fiction Collective Two.
For more information about the university and its programs, visit www.uhv.edu.