Tuesday, February 6, 2001 Volume 66, Issue 90



Legislature hears Tier I funding request

By Miriam A. Garcia
Senior Staff Writer

UH System representatives repeated their request for additional funding before state senators during a Senate Finance Committee hearing Monday in Austin, but also emphasized the University's successes.

System Chancellor and University President Arthur K. Smith testified before the committee to present the System's budget for the next biennium. In addition to the Texas Tier I Initiative -- UH's push to get enough money from the state to attain the highest research classification -- Smith presented budgets for UH-Clear Lake, UH-Downtown and UH-Victoria.

"The people of our communities appreciate the area's need for a highly skilled and educated work force," Smith said, stressing the four System universities' contributions to the community.

He also pointed out the universities' retention rates, the percentage of students who return to an institution after having been enrolled there.

At UH-CL, Smith said, the undergraduate retention rate for 1998-99 was 84.4 percent. UH-V boasts a 90 percent retention rate and a 70 percent graduation rate, and at UH-D, the retention rate for first-time college freshmen was 61.4 percent in Fall 1999 -- a 6.7 percent increase from the previous year.

Freshmen have the highest dropout rate of any student group, and Smith said UH has made efforts to improve freshman retention. In the past two years, the University has invested more than $450,000 in the Scholars' Community, a program designed to address many of the challenges facing an urban, commuting student population.

The program, which offers students the feel of a small college within UH, shows a higher retention rate than the overall campus, Smith said. Freshmen in the Scholars' Community have a retention rate of 83 percent compared with 76 percent in the general student population, he said.

"Eliminating the barriers to participation is just the first step," Smith said. "Keeping those students in school is the second step."

Gary L. Rosenthal, chairman of the UHS Board of Regents, also testified to give legislators a different perspective.

Rosenthal not only emphasized the importance of improving the retention rate among freshmen, but also stressed the need to train Houston's work force through better access to higher education.

"A failure in Houston to maintain and increase our economic strength will have a serious and materially adverse impact not just on Houston's population, but (on that of) the entire state," Rosenthal said. "The University of Houston component institutions play a significant role in being able to address these concerns."

Grover Campbell, UH's vice president for governmental relations, said he thought Rosenthal's testimony added another dimension to the hearing.

"Since he is not an employee of the University and has a lot of experience in Houston's business, he was able to talk about UH's needs with a different perspective," Campbell said. "Overall, I think we were well-received."

Appropriations for the UH System will be finalized when the Texas Legislature's session ends in May.

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