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
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
"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.