UHCL anticipates growth for Pearland campus in master plan

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A University of Houston-Clear Lake master plan released in November shows the Pearland campus’ growth trending upward in the next 20 years and also allows for a third building, if there is a need.

The UHCL-Pearland Campus, a branch of UHCL, still has plenty of space on its 40-acre property, which opened in 2010. This has not been an issue given the enrollment of the school, according to Ward Martaindale, associate vice president for facilities management and construction.

The university is building a Health Sciences and Classroom Building, the second building on the campus. It will be finished in time for spring 2019 classes and will provide more space for freshman and sophomore classes, as well as additional space for the school’s nursing program.

According to Provost Glen Houston, the hope is the nursing program, which began in fall 2014, will draw students to UHCL-Pearland and will lead to stronger relationships with Pearland, the city’s hospitals and the Texas Medical Center. There are 38 students enrolled in the nursing program.

“You’ll see through the master plan, we talk about the relationship with the city and connecting the properties. The city owns quite a bit of property around this and with the partnership —the relationship—we have had with the city, [that is]reflected in that look to the future, and [we]make sure that we make the best use of resources for us and the city together,” Martaindale said.

With new campus additions, programs and the growth of the school and the city, UHCL-Pearland and the city can benefit one another, Mayor Tom Reid said.

“Pearland is being recognized now as not only a quality place to live, a place where it’s easy to get to, it’s got a lot of options for growth and your family, but it’s becoming an educational mecca as well,” Reid said. “We have quality schools that are highly recognized and a four-year college with a graduate school right in town, and I think what that does—it says that Pearland has the development of our community as one of the premier communities around the Houston Gulf Coast Area. I think a lot of cities would kill for that.”

New addition

UHCL’s health sciences and classroom building will offer more space for the nursing program, space for biology and chemistry seminars and shell space for another possible program.

Enrollment at the Pearland campus does not yet support the need for the third-floor space, according to UHCL’s master plan. In fact, the Pearland campus enrollment has been trending down slightly since 2013, but officials are hoping for a turnaround. Enrollment in 2017 dropped by eight percent.

“I am anticipating immediate growth in the nursing program,” Houston said. “If that happens, that will be significant revenue generation, that will be partnerships that we will probably have announcements about as well. I could see that program growing, and long term, we will probably need some more nursing faculty out there, and who knows, maybe even graduate programs.”

Enrollment declines were partly to blame for putting UHCL at risk for a budget shortfall of $13.9 million in fiscal year 2018. However, by leaving open staff positions vacant and cutting costs, the university has offset the shortfall, university officials said.

Officials are hoping that implementing new marketing strategies will help grow enrollment.

Houston also said the university hopes the growth at the Pearland campus will continue to offset any shortfalls. Part of that strategy involves creating new programs that attract more students, a process that will begin this fall, he said.

As with nursing, Houston hopes the new program will have a medical or business spin.

“One of the things that could happen—and I don’t know if it will happen—there could be a degree that is joint between health care administration and nursing,” Houston said. “Our strategic planning will be looking at what new programs are going to be out there, what new staff and faculty need to be out there, and of course, those are all revenue projections but those will decide what needs to go out there.”

The health sciences and classroom building will be supported by several site improvements, according to the master plan. They include more parking and an additional campus entrance from Pearland Parkway.

The new building also provides space for biology and chemistry labs and lecture halls, which officials hope will soon house classes for freshmen and sophomores, which the main campus began offering in fall 2014. As of now, the only underclassmen at the Pearland campus are Alvin Community College students who can easily transfer into UHCL under an agreement between the schools.

“Our partnership with the University of Houston-Clear Lake Pearland Campus provides students with an opportunity to obtain credit from ACC at the same facility when they’re pursuing their bachelor’s degree. This is a benefit to students in the Pearland region who are looking to complete their education without a costly commute,” ACC President Christal Albrecht said.

According to Houston, the new biology and chemistry classrooms will offer ACC the opportunity to offer those classes to their students who take classes at UHCL-Pearland.

City relationship

According to Houston, the extension of the Clear Lake campus into Pearland was due largely to Tom Reid.

“I said you know the one thing—if I were going to build a city, what would I want to have? I wanted to make sure we had good access to good academic facilities, and we’ve got great schools, some opportunities for our students, but we don’t have a college here,” Reid said.

Reid spoke to the members of the University of Houston System and then-president of UHCL, Bill Staples, and showed them Pearland Parkway, which had recently been built, and the land nearby.

“I said, ‘Well, we could possibly make some property available for you, and so our final decision was we would make 40 acres on Pearland Parkway [available]. … They loved it and followed up on it,” Reid said.

The city built the original building in 2010 and has a bond agreement with UHCL that gives the land to the university after 20 years in 2030. The city donated the land for the second building to the university, as state law would have prohibited the university from building on the land otherwise.

The campus also contributes to the economic growth of the city, particularly with the addition of the Lonza facility and the Mitsubishi Compressor Plant, Reid said. Lonza and Mitsubishi will need employees with certification in different medical and engineering fields, respectively, as well as certified lab technicians. With the Pearland campus nearby, employees can earn degrees and certifications, and have a job in the same city, Reid said.

“When that college is finished in September, it’s going to be a four-year college and, of course, it has a graduate school, and opportunity to get your doctorate. You can graduate from high school in Pearland, go out and get your bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctoral and never leave town. That’s a plus,” Reid said.

UHCL-Pearland contributes to the economic growth of the city, as well as appealing to outside business looking to open a Pearland location, said Matt Buchanan, president of the Pearland Economic Development Corporation, which used to be located at the campus.

“We obviously promote that the campus is here and all of the education opportunities in our region, so it’s beneficial at every level,” Buchanan said.

According to Buchanan, the nursing program is beneficial to the city as well.

“We were always focusing on health science as one of our development strategies,” Buchanan said.

Future work

As it stands, there are no plans to build a third building at the Pearland campus, Martaindale said. However, there is room for a third building if the university has a need for one in the future.

“The third floor is being shelled out and that gives us a tremendous amount of space for new programs to grow into,” Martaindale said. “There will be sufficient space in the existing building and the health sciences building to accommodate that growth for several years.”

The next level of growth for the Pearland campus will be filling the shell space on the third floor. The school will begin discussions about how to fill the shelf space in the fall. However, it might be years before the space is filled, as it depends on the needs of the university and community.

Reid named engineering and medicine as two studies that would fit in well with the community.

“The options will develop and will only enhance Pearland as an education location. I think it’s fitting with our vision of what Pearland should be and what it can be, and I think that’s a very positive step in that direction,” he said.

The enrollment numbers used in the master plan were based on a head count that was predicted to reach 1,270 over the next 20 years.

While there is projected growth for the Pearland campus, there has not been a discussion about dorms on the Pearland campus, Martaindale said. Without dorms, the Pearland campus will remain a commuter campus, despite the addition of freshman and sophomore programs.

The master plan identified student service and student life space on campus, meeting areas for students, shaded areas and outdoor seating and an option to make a left turn from the campus to Pearland Parkway in order to access Beltway 8 as potential needs for the Pearland campus.

“I think it’s going to be one of the big factors that makes Pearland stand out as one of the developing, outstanding, cosmopolitan communities in the Gulf Coast area. And we’ve got the land to do it,” Reid said. “We’re in the right place at the right time. In future years, people are going to say, ‘Wow, how in the world did that ever happen to us? Aren’t we lucky?’”

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Haley Morrison
Haley Morrison came to Community Impact Newspaper in 2017 after graduating from Baylor University. In her tenure as a reporter, she has primarily written about education, health care and transportation.
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