University of Houston System (UHS) Regents approved a University of Houston Sugar Land Task Force report on Feb. 26 that sets in motion plans to implement a major change in the delivery of off-campus instruction: to make the University of Houston the sole UHS institution delivering programs at the Sugar Land campus.
To that end, the University is planning to expand or launch 22 programs in Sugar Land and relocate a large segment of its College of Technology to the campus.
Welcome Wilson Sr., task force chair and former chair of the UHS Board of Regents, said the eight-member Task Force established five recommendations to guide the planning and implementation of this initiative:
- In fall 2014, the UH System should begin implementing a multi-year plan (two to five years) through which the University of Houston will become the exclusive provider of baccalaureate and graduate programs at the Sugar Land campus, consistent with the UHS Board of Regents’ decision to transfer campus administration to UH. UH will continue to rely on its community college partners to deliver lower-division course work.
- In the implementation of this change, it is of great importance that no current student be left stranded, that no existing faculty contract be violated, and that the University of Houston-Victoria be furnished with adequate funds to carry out its important mission to become a destination university in the city of Victoria.
- The success of the UHV nursing program is highly dependent upon its facilities in Sugar Land. It is also important that these programs continue to be conducted in metropolitan Houston near the Texas Medical Center. For these reasons, and consistent with the Sugar Land Task Force Nursing Subcommittee’s recommendation, this Task Force recommends that the existing nursing program at Sugar Land be transferred to the University of Houston and made part of its newly organized UH Health Science Center. This does not preclude UHV continuing with certain nursing programs in Victoria or elsewhere.
- Over the course of the implementation period, as the University of Houston expands program delivery in Sugar Land, UH-Victoria and UH-Clear Lake will incrementally cease program delivery at the campus and will have the opportunity to shift some of their programs to another UH System teaching center or deliver them fully online.
- In addition to degree programs, the University of Houston should deliver select certificate programs at the Sugar Land campus to meet local workforce needs.
Wilson said the changes envisioned in the recommendations will require careful planning to ensure that student access, degree completion, enrollment and revenue are maintained and that the end result of this initiative constitutes an improvement in services for the students, universities and communities involved.
“These recommendations are pretty bold,” said Regent Roger Welder, a native of Victoria, Texas. “I agree that these guiding principles are imperative. I know there is some trepidation, naturally, among people currently operating there. It’s my expectation, and (the board’s) expectation that implementation of this plan be done in a very thoughtful and careful way. It’s clear to me that the city of Sugar Land and Fort Bend County really want this. They’ve been waiting a long time for it. So, the timing is appropriate.”
The expansion of UH programs in Sugar Land and a corresponding transfer of some UH-Victoria and UH-Clear Lake programs to other locations or delivery modes must be timed and orchestrated in a way that provides continuity in course and program availability, faculty and staff resources, enrollment and revenue, the task force recommended.
The report also noted that the planned transition will require some level of renovation at the Sugar Land campus to accommodate incoming UH programs and faculty, as will the shift of some UHV programs to another mode of delivery, such as fully online.
UHS Chancellor Renu Khator said the transition plan would be implemented “very methodically, very thoughtfully and very carefully,” with a continuing focus on the best interests of students and faculty, as well as individual System campuses.
An implementation committee led by Paula Myrick Short, senior vice chancellor for academic affairs, the University of Houston System, and senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at UH, will develop a recommended transition plan. The committee will include administrators from the UH System, UH Sugar Land and UH-Victoria, as well as students and faculty from UH Sugar Land and UHV. The committee is also expected to solicit input from students, faculty, staff and the community at large.
UHS Board Chair Jarvis Hollingsworth said Regents transferred the administrative functions of UH Sugar Land to the University of Houston a year ago “in anticipation of a process by which these types of recommendations would be considered.”
“We are the Regents for the UH System. Therefore, it is always, first and foremost, our responsibility to do what’s in the best interests of all four campuses in the System. We’ll work closely with the communities involved to make sure we live up to that standard,” he said.