Academic opportunities expand in Katy

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Two players in the Houston area higher-education scene are joining forces to bring more opportunities to the Katy area. Longtime allies University of Houston System and Houston Community College-Northwest signed an official memorandum announcing their partnership in the spring to collaborate for the greater good of academics and create new programs for students.

“In today’s world of limited resources, it just makes sense for us to work together,” HCC-Northwest President Zach Hodges said.

The schools’ previous, unofficial partnership involved both entities borrowing space from each other when convenient, Hodges said. Now, students will have the ability to begin an academic career at HCC and then make a smooth transition into a four-year degree with UH-Main and UH-Victoria. Other UH-System campuses may offer classes in Katy in the future.

“It is a good deal for citizens and helps with efficiency—students do not have to waste their time taking courses they don’t need,” Hodges said.

Best of both worlds

Dick Phillips, associate vice chancellor for system initiatives at UH, said the partnership is an ideal collaboration because most of HCC’s courses are offered during the day, and UH courses are offered during the evening.

UH’s Katy facility is in Cinco Ranch and is land-locked. Phillips said it is no longer in the epicenter of population growth, he said. The center is a teaching facility where students can take upperclassmen courses from one of the UH-System schools—Victoria, Clear Lake, Downtown, Main.

“The UH-System has no freshman and sophomore classes [in Katy],” Phillips said. “For students, it’s a good deal because you already have that system in place with HCC, and so those credits will transfer.”

Other programs

The memorandum of understanding will bring an increase in programs offered by both entities, including workforce-specific pathways for students and programs with classes at both campuses.

To train and prepare students for the workforce, HCC and UH plan to work with local employers, especially in the health care industry, Hodges said. He said the schools are looking for feedback from the community to help determine other target industries.

Looking forward

There are multiple projects in the works for the UH and HCC partnership. Hodges said HCC is focusing on crafting a business plan to evaluate the feasibility of another facility at the HCC-Northwest campus, which has about 30 acres at 1550 Foxlake Drive near I-10 and Park Row. HCC would build it and lease it to UH to house staff and faculty use as well as classroom space.

“We have to see if it will be cost effective,” Hodges said.

Because HCC does not receive property tax like Lone Star College, its revenue comes from student tuition with other revenue coming from the book store and small businesses on campus.

Taxing districts for colleges are mandated by the state, and local school districts can choose to participate via an election. The study is evaluating whether demand for a new building is high enough to attract the necessary enrollment numbers.

“We think we are the best kept secret over here, and we think by sharing a location together and marketing together we can let the community know what options are out here,” Phillips said.

However, HCC currently has about 5,000 square feet of available space in its current facility UH may use in the meantime. UH-Victoria would be the first UH campus to bring entire programs to the area complete with academic advisers and faculty, Phillips said. Students would be able to start as college freshmen taking HCC courses and meet with advisers from UH-Victoria to learn how to complete a four-year degree.

“Whatever we do, it has to be self-funded,” he said. “But I am confident if we had the space, the partnership would grow and it could be a good steward of many. We are working toward that.”

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