August 18, 2017
I very much look forward to the rich and rewarding semester ahead, and wish to take this opportunity to share with you some updates from our community.
Enrollment & Student Success
Approximately 10,000 new undergraduate students are starting their academic journey at the University of Houston this fall. The freshmen class has been selected from a larger than ever pool of applicants, and it is as strong and as diverse as ever. Thanks to your focus on student success, a larger number of students have chosen us as their university of first choice. Enrollment in UHin4, our signature program that guarantees graduation in four years at fixed-tuition rates, remains strong. These changes have a direct impact on our course offerings and student support services. I ask you to please keep these shifting trends in mind as you plan for the future.
Retention data suggest that more and more of our students are continuing on the path toward graduation. I thank you all for guiding, mentoring and supporting students.
Graduate enrollment, despite a challenging international recruiting environment, is significantly up. We all know that graduate students are attracted by faculty talent and program strength. Thanks to our chairs and deans for their leadership and hard work.
Thanks to state leadership and our outstanding Houston delegation, higher education in general and the University of Houston in particular fared better than expected in the legislative budget. Our overall allocation increased by 3.5 percent, but this increase came in the form of one-time, item-specific funding. In order to fund our priorities and reward performance (of units and individuals), we had to execute a budget reallocation exercise. All academic units took a 2.5 percent reduction while all non-academic units took a 3.5 percent reduction. Most of the assembled pool is directed to hire faculty, reward promotions, support graduate students and cover Fair Labor Standards Act-related staff benefits. The proposed budget to the Board of Regents, which details our revenue, expenditures and proposed use of reallocated dollars, is posted here.
The legislative directive, as reflected through floor debates and/or passed legislation, is the following:
- Provide affordable access to the diverse population of the State of Texas.
- Prepare Texas’s workforce by increasing the percentage of college graduates.
- Reduce instructional cost.
- Be held accountable for performance.
- Don’t depend on special items funding. Special items are just that—specially funded to start an initiative for a limited time.
Health and Biomedical Science II is scheduled to open in November although the College of Pharmacy has already begun occupying their space during the summer. The Quads replacement project will begin in late fall with three of the original residence halls slated for demolition and the remaining two to follow next year. The Core Renovation project, which includes major renovation of six buildings, is in its design and planning phase. Old Science Building and the Science & Engineering Research Center will be first to begin in May 2018.
Several athletics buildings are also under construction, which includes the Fertitta Center ($60M), the Indoor Football Practice Facility ($20M) and the Baseball Clubhouse ($5M). All of these are funded from private or sponsored funds.
Just six months after the public launch of our “Here, We Go” campaign to raise $1 billion, we have raised $760M and thus surpassed the 75 percent mark. It is quite an impressive achievement for which the entire Advancement Team deserves accolades. In the end, fundraising is about building a future that we all can be proud of. Thank you for supporting this future with money, time and commitment.
During the summer, Dr. Ira Blake assumed her role as President of the University of Houston-Clear Lake, Dr. Amr Elnashai joined us as the new Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer, and Dr. Anthony Ambler took over as the dean of the College of Technology. Good luck to all of them, and I hope you get a chance to meet them soon.
A ‘Major’ Season Ahead
On Saturday, Sept. 2, we will start our “major” football season under Coach Major Applewhite. The first game is in San Antonio, which is an easy drive from Houston, so I hope to see an impressive expanse of Cougar Red in the stands. The first home game is Sept. 16, when cross-town rival Rice visits TDECU Stadium. Meanwhile, Women’s Soccer and Volleyball are opening their seasons on Aug. 18 and 25, respectively.
I look forward to discussing this and many other such achievements in greater detail at my annual Fall Address, scheduled for Oct. 18, and hope to see you there. This is an exciting time in the life of our University, and I am deeply grateful to each of you for your contributions and extraordinary dedication to our students; I am honored to be a part of such a remarkable and talented community.
With warm regards,