Katy soon to be hub for higher education

3 Oct 2018

By: Michelle Iracheta - Houston Chronicle 

In less than five years, the area at Grand Parkway and Partnership Way in Katy off Interstate 10 could be filled with eager students rushing to get to classes from three different educational institutions.

As part of a collaborative effort to make it easier for students to achieve their academic goals, specifically in engineering and nursing; and for the Houston Community College to tap into the growing population that the Katy Independent School District and surrounding districts have experienced, the college system is moving its existing Katy campus to be closer in proximity to the future site of the University of Houston at Katy campus.

Houston Community College Chancellor Dr. Cesar Maldonado said that while the college system has not selected a piece of property, the board of trustees on Sept. 5 approved the concept of moving the college system’s existing facility at Foxlake to the Grand Parkway area where the UH-Katy facility construction is underway and scheduled for completion in fall 2019.

“We got a good partnership with the University of Houston and they shared with us what they were doing in that area,” Maldonado said. “It was advantageous to HCC, to UH and primarily to the students in terms of tuition if they could rely on HCC to provide the first two years of a four-year degree. From that was born the concept of us being the first two years of the degree.”

Dr. Zachary Hodges, president of the HCC Northwest Campus, said the next step is to get board approval to buy the land.

“We do not know how much or exactly where it will be,” Hodges said. “We want to consider all options for the best value.”

The campus will offer freshman and sophomore courses a student needs to transfer into UH Katy. Courses such as engineering, computer science, business, education and general studies.

“The engineering courses in partnership with the Cullen College of Engineering will be especially popular with the energy companies located in Houston,” Hodges said. “We have a tremendous need for engineers and HCC, UH will be providing them.”

The UH -Katy campus when it opens will be a massive 80,000 -square foot building that will house the UH College of Nursing as well as the UH College of Engineering.

But Houston Community College is not the only college system making the move.

Dr. David Cockrum, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of Houston-Victoria, said the UH-V Katy campus, currently leasing space at 2002 Grand Parkway will move to the UH-Katy building in the fall, where it plans to grow its student population from 800 or more to about 4,000.

The college will offer master of business administration degree, master in education and a counseling program, he said. The school also offers an array of other courses that fall into the arts and sciences schools.

Dr. Jay Neal, Associate Vice President and Chief Operating for University of Houston at Katy, Associate Professor said HCC Katy and UH have a cooperative agreement that allows for the use of each other’s facilities as “practical, resulting in optimization of limited classroom space.”

“UH will only be offering upper level course work in Katy, relying on its community college partners to offer the course curriculum,” Neal said. “This arrangement offers a tremendous cost saving to students.”

The partnership between institutions, said Maldonado, is a way to “bring down the barriers.”

“What we are doing from a student success perspective is we’re bringing down the barriers,” he said. “The proximity of our facilities is really an advantage but what really makes this a unique partnership is that our faculty will be talking to UH’s faculty and they will be working together to make sure that our curriculum aligns. And they make sure that the students take as many transfer courses with them when they move to UH.”

Hodges said the four-year degree - two years at HCC and two years at UH - will be available for under $25,000.

Maldonado estimates the campus will see a growth of about 2,000 new students annually by 2022 and over 5,000 new students by 2030.

“Our hope is to be close enough to the University of Houston and to be a virtual street crossing away from UH, so we can leverage that and help students succeed,” Maldonado said. “The cost is very important, too.”

The Katy campus is 78 percent minority students; 36 percent Hispanic, 23 percent African American, 22 percent White and 19 percent Asian.

The existing facility has an estimated worth of $14 million, he said, adding that the plan to recommend to the board that it be declared a surplus, so it be used to fund the new facility in Katy.

The University of Houston at Katy campus will offer a traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the UH College of Nursing will be offering, Neal said, adding that this is the first time the college offers this degree.

UH Katy will be the home for this program, he said.

UH Cullen College of Engineering will offer three undergraduate programs, including computer engineering, construction engineering, system engineering and five graduate programs, including petroleum engineering, environmental engineering, power systems, corrosion and subsea engineering.

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