Higher education funding approved in Fort Bend, Harris counties

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Additional higher education opportunities are coming to Fort Bend and west Harris counties after the 84th Texas legislative session concluded June 1.

The University of Houston system received approval to expand in Sugar Land and Katy when Gov. Greg Abbott signed HB 100 on June 18. This was the first tuition revenue bond to pass since 2006.

The Texas State Technical College system will also expand in Rosenberg after HB 658 was signed into law May 23.

HB 100, filled with projects for all major university systems in the state, authorizes the UH system to spend $54 million on constructing a new academic building in Sugar Land.

The bill also allots $46,832,000 to the UH system for the purpose of “land acquisition for construction of a building in the area near Katy.”

The bill, authored by state Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, built on the momentum of last session’s tuition revenue bond bill, which failed to pass.

“There was a lot of consensus for the need of a TRB bill in the last session. It just didn’t cross the finish line,” Zerwas said. “Coming into this session, we wanted to build on that [consensus].”

As the population in Fort Bend and west Harris counties grow, so does the need for higher education, Zerwas said.

“We’re going to have the opportunity to see people get educated [in the area]and get jobs that hopefully keep them nearby,” Zerwas said. “I’m excited for what comes of this and the development of education in the west Houston area.”

The approval of HB 100 was necessary for the system to continue meeting growth, said Jason Smith, UH system vice president for governmental and community relations.

“Our university is growing rapidly,” he said. “There [are]a lot of higher education needs throughout the city and the state.”

Student enrollment has grown steadily at the UH system, from 37,000 students in fall 2009 to nearly 41,000 in fall 2014.

The expansion in Sugar Land and a campus in Katy would give residents a chance to earn a degree without making the commute into Houston, Smith said.

“Transportation in Houston can be challenging,” he said. “It’s good for people who are younger or don’t want to spend time on the road—they can go to [a UH system campus]in their own backyard.”

Because there are many factors yet to work out, Smith said there is no tentative opening date for the new campuses.

The new Texas State Technical College in Rosenberg will have a groundbreaking ceremony on June 25.

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Fares Sabawi has reported in Corpus Christi and the Coastal Bend for four years before joining Community Impact as a reporter in 2015. Sabawi covers the city of Katy and surrounding areas.
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