Higher ed board scrambles plans for UH Northwest campus

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On Friday, the University of Houston backed away from a proposal to establish a UH Northwest campus after a Texas higher education committee hopelessly scrambled the plans. Matthew Tresaugue reports for the Chronicle:

The University of Houston withdrew a proposal to establish a satellite campus in the growing northwest suburbs Friday, claiming state-imposed rules would cripple the project.

University of Houston President Jay Gogue notified the state’s higher education commissioner, Raymund Paredes, of the decision less than 24 hours after the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board approved the new campus with a series of last-minute conditions.

The board extended neighboring Prairie View A&M University’s right to block UH from offering 14 popular courses at the new campus by one year through 2012, while preventing UH from seeking additional state funding for the project.

It also increased the period that Prairie View A&M and Sam Houston State University could lease or buy space at the new campus by five years to 2012.

“It reached a point where we couldn’t make it work financially,” Gogue said. “That’s when I had to pull the plug.”


The UH System’s governing board identified the area two years ago as the next place for expansion because of the region’s surging population. About 1.4 million reside in the area, up from about 875,000 in 1990. Within a 10-mile radius of the proposed campus, the population is projected to grow more than 15 percent over five years. The coordinating board made the late changes in response to concerns raised by Prairie View A&M, which operates a branch roughly four miles from UH’s planned campus.

State lawmakers and Prairie View A&M leaders have said UH’s new campus would undermine federal and state civil rights agreements that called for Texas to bolster facilities and academic programs at the historically black institution.

This move seemed like a no-brainer in terms of the higher-education demand that would be met and the readily available property. Unfortunately, when it comes to the University of Houston, Texas political concerns sometimes find a way to derail even the most sensible proposals.

As one emailer pointed out to us, perhaps the lack of distinct Houston-area voices on the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board influenced this bad decision. Since Gov. Rick Perry is ultimately the person to hold to account for the actions of that board, Houston-area voters may want to keep in mind how that board scuttled a higher-education proposal that would have served our area well when making their choice for governor in November.

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