Tuesday, January 31, 2012

College Learning and Democracy's Future

The National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement and the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) have just issued a new report, "A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy's Future."  The report urges colleges and universities to integrate civic learning and civic literacy into the fabric of university life.  As the report states, "A socially cohesive and economically vibrant U.S. democracy...require[s] informed, engaged, open-minded, and socially responsible people committed to the common good and practiced in 'doing' democracy....".

Universities have been criticized for graduating students without the broad, general education that they will need for 21st Century Skills.  For example, the recent book, Academic Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, argues that seniors taking on assessment instrument, the College Learning Assessment, demonstrate very little learning over their four years of colleges.  Colleges and universities have a responsibility of preparing an educated workforce.  This is particularly true in the case of community colleges who often develop curricula specific to new industries and training programs for new employers.  Even four-year colleges and universities must do a better job of providing the broad skill sets for a rapidly changing work force and a global economy.  After all, we graduate teachers, nurses, engineers, social workers, and in professional schools, develop the next generation of physicians, lawyers, and other professionals.

Even so, we cannot forget that colleges and universities also prepare America's future leaders and educate a significant portion of its citizenry.  We contribute to the education of an informed electorate, which is vital to the survival and strengthening our our democracy and our society.  As the AAC&U full report makes clear, "Today's education for democracy needs to be informed by deep engagement with the values of liberty, equality, individual worth, open mindedness, and the willingness to collaborate with people of differing views and backgrounds towards common solutions for the public good."

The AAC&U report provides brief examples of some of the work of colleges and universities throughout the country.  It recommends that all American universities foster a civic ethos across all parts of campus and educational culture, require civic literacy as a core expectation for all students in general education programs, practice civic inquiry across all fields, and advance civic action through transformative partnerships at home and abroad. 

As a president of the University of Houston-Downtown I have shared this report with the administrative and academic leadership of the university.  I encourage our faculty to tie civic learning into our core curriculum and to expand service learning courses and internships.  UHD is recognized on the President's Honor Roll for Civic Engagement, it is earned the Carnegie-classification as an 'engaged university,' and has well-established partnerships with neighborhoods, agencies, schools, and nonprofits.  But, all of us can do more.  I welcome the report and the challenge it presents.  America can only be stronger for it. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

It's Never to Late to Go Back to College

The following appeared in the Houston Chronicle on September 22, 2011 and can be found here.

The United States is losing its advantage in the global talent pool as the number of adults gaining college degrees in countries such as China and South Korea increases rapidly, according to a new study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Two years ago, the U.S. ranked 12th in young adults 25 to 34 years of age with degrees or certificates. Now OECD reports that the U.S. has dropped to 15th.

Meanwhile, in Houston one-of-four adults do not have a high school diploma, while 40% of Hispanics lack a high school diploma. The number of families living in poverty has increased dramatically, while unemployment rates for those with less than a high school degree are roughly three times the rate of adults with college degrees (15% compared to 4.3% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report of July 2011). (More information can be found here.)   According to the 2009 American Community Survey, the Greater Houston Metropolitan area has more than 823,000 adults who have some college credits, but have never earned a college degree.

Amid this disturbing news, the University of Houston-Downtown is one of eight universities invited to participate in Grad TX, a statewide initiative to encourage more than 40,000 Texans with more than 90 hours of college credits and no degree to return to school and earn their bachelor's degree.  Moreover, this is an area where UHD excels, as the university has a long history of helping adults earn their bachelor's degree.

In early August, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board launched Grad TX with funding from a federal College Access Challenge Grant. The Grad TX program targets adults who "stopped out" of college with 90-plus hours of college credit to return to one of eight participating public universities in Texas and earn their bachelor's degree.

Of particular help at www.GradTX.org is an online transfer tool that allows candidates for re-admission to college to enter their completed coursework and assess how their credits would count toward a bachelor's degree at a participating university. Advisers at UHD and the other universities specialize in meeting the unique needs of returning students and evaluating how previous college work, military credits or credit by exam can provide credit toward a bachelor's degree and helping returning students graduate faster. Grad TX also offers information and guidance related to paying for college tuition, obtaining financial aid and addressing the needs of U.S. military veterans.

Only five weeks after Grad TX was announced, more than 10,000 visitors to www.GradTX.org have checked into what the program has to offer, with the most interest coming from the greater Houston area.
University of Houston-Downtown is well suited to be among the Grad TX universities. For many years, we have enjoyed a solid reputation for helping returning adult students complete their baccalaureate degrees while balancing work, family and school.

The accessibility and flexibility that we offer through our campus in the heart of downtown Houston situated near many major employers, coupled with our satellite suburban campuses and online course offerings, have made it easier for adults to pursue and complete a degree.

UHD is one of the most ethnically diverse universities in the nation, ranking 37th nationally for graduating both Hispanic and African-American students with bachelor's degrees. Our demographics match those of the city of Houston and its surrounding communities, with under-represented students making up the majority of our student population. UHD students range from age 16 to 76, and the average age of an undergraduate is 27. UHD is the second-largest university in Houston, with a current enrollment of more than 12,500 students.

Although returning students may choose to pursue any of UHD's 40 undergraduate degree programs, two programs have particular appeal to returning adult students. Our Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences in Applied Administration (BAAS-AA) offers students the opportunity to develop competencies and skills that prepare them for promotion to upper-level administrative and supervisory positions. Students who have completed an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in technical and occupational fields are strong candidates for the BAAS.

Our bachelor of science degree with a major in interdisciplinary studies allows returning students to select classes that complement coursework already completed. It is often a suitable alternative for returning students who have multiple interests or who have changed their career objectives over time, making a traditional major less fitting.

Earning a bachelor's degree makes a considerable difference for individuals, their family members and the economy as a whole. College graduates earn 84 percent more than people with only a high school diploma, according to The College Payoff Report recently released by Georgetown University's Center on Education and The Workforce. Those who hold a bachelor's degree currently can expect median lifetime earnings near $2.3 million while those with only a high school diploma average roughly $1.3 million or slightly more than $15 per hour.

Moreover, the Center for Houston's Future projects that simply increasing college attainment levels by 1% would result in a $4.2 billion annual increase to revenues in the Houston Region.  UHD is part of the Center's Talent Dividend initiative to raise college attainment levels.

Clearly, Grad TX is an excellent reminder that it is never too late to return to college and that investing in higher education pays dividends for life - and for Texas.

Flores is president of the University of Houston-Downtown.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lessons of My First Year and Our Next Steps at UHD

Over the past year, I've shared some of the key lessons we've learned at the University of Houston-Downtown that might be shared with other universities.  I started the blog when I began as president at UHD.  For new followers, I encourage you to read some of the earlier posts.

In my last post, I mentioned efforts by President Obama, Lumina Foundation, and others to increase the percentage of adults with college degrees.  The University of Houston-Downtown is the 13th largest public institution in Texas and the second largest university in Houston. Over 80% of our students work 30 hours or more and about a quarter of all students work more than 40 hours or per week, often in two jobs.  The average age of our students is 28 years. So, our students are predominantly working adults, many of them have children and families to support.

UHD has been nationally recognized as a Top 100 university in producing minority baccalaureate students.  We rank 33rd in the country in awarding baccalaureate degrees to Hispanics and 47th for awarding baccalaureate degrees to African Americans. This past year we graduated over 2,400 students with bachelor's and graduate degrees. We are determined to increase these numbers.

Followers of this blog have asked me to briefly summarize some of what occurred in my first year as president at UHD.  When I arrived in Houston and at UHD, I began my presidency by walking around and listening.  I visited with students, faculty, alumni, regents, members of the President's Advisory Board, and elected officials. I spoke before most colleges at UHD and several departments.  I held focus groups and distributed a survey online and via email asking five very simple questions: 1) What does UHD do very well and where could we excel? 2) In what areas does UHD pretty good and with a different emphasis could be very good? 3) What areas should UHD stop doing? 4) What resources does UHD leave on the table (grants, foundations, corporations, partnerships, etc.) and, lastly, 5) If you were UHD president for one day and could make one change, what would it be?

We put together a team of faculty and staff to summarize the survey results.  We then held several leadership retreats, built around the Good to Great model, and used the survey results as a starting point.  We revised our mission, established goals, and this summer decided upon a single big goal (BHAG in the Good to Great vernacular): UHD will be known as a premier city university engaging every student in high impact experiences.

We also agreed on preliminary goals and metrics for 2020.  For example, we want to dramatically grow graduate programs and expand our research.  We project that UHD will have over 22,000 students by 2020 with roughly 8-10 per cent of total student enrollment coming from graduate programs.  We will greatly expand the number of online degrees with roughly a quarter of all enrollment online by 2020.  We have already launched discussions among the faculty on steps we can take to implement these ambitious goals.

But key to our focus is building strong undergraduate degrees developed around a culture of high-impact experiences.  What are high-impact experiences and why do we want all UHD students to receive these experiences? They include learning communities, undergraduate research, peer mentoring, first-year experience programs, service learning, internships, work teams, capstone courses, etc. These activities engage students in experiential learning and provide them opportunities to work closely with faculty.  Research nationally and our own experience show that students who participate in high-impact experiences are more likely to graduate than those students who don't receive such experiences.  They are also more likely to graduate on-time.

UHD has a long history of such programs, including the Scholars Academy which has been recognized by the NSF and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for their success in graduating students from underrepresented ethnic and racial groups in STEM fields.  UHD also has a long history of providing high-quality internships with corporations, non profits, and public agencies, as well as service learning courses that address issues affecting the Houston area.  In the course of the planning retreats, we decided to build off this strength, expand it, and make it a cohesive part of the UHD learning experience.

But, we also want to ensure our students are prepared for 21st Century jobs. Technology is changing rapidly and industries are developing new jobs and requiring new skills. Most of the top 10 jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004 and many companies in the Fortune 500 did not exist in 1990.  One of the nation's largest public agencies did not exist in 2000.  So, we must not only prepare students for jobs that exist today, we must provide them with skill sets they can use to solve problems that don't yet exist with technologies that haven't been developed for industries that now seem only distant dreams.

I have asked our faculty and the provost to work together to decide on what every UHD graduate should know in the 21st Century.  They will be using as starting points the work of national higher education organizations, such as AAC&U, AASCU, ACE, and others, along with recommendations of the U.S. Chamber and American Association of Manufacturer's. These groups recommend that all college students graduate with critical thinking skills, analytical and problem-solving skills, global understanding, team work, and excellent communication skills, among others.  Our faculty will decide on appropriate competencies.  We will then integrate these competencies into every major UHD offers and assess learning to those competencies.

We are also working hard to retain and graduate students.  This year we launched a common reading program with 800 freshmen students receiving the book Outliers by Malcom Gladwell. Nearly 60 faculty and over 600 students participated in a special session a week before classes to discuss the book.We made a pledge to the students: if they agree to work hard, take the required courses, and regularly meet with an adviser, we will mentor them and help them to graduate on time.  Faculty are now following up with those students to ensure their success. 

Finally, we are meeting with community colleges throughout Houston to re-affirm and re-sign joint admission and reverse transfer programs so that students from community colleges will earn full credit at UHD.  More than three-fourths of our students are transfer students, so it is important that we build strong partnerships and full articulation with the major community college districts that surround UHD.

UHD will do everything it can to increase the number of degrees we award.  We want to be part of the national effort to increase the percentage of adults with college degrees.  I will keep you informed of our progress.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

How the U.S. Can Regain Leadership in Degree Attainment

My last blog entry dealt with the cost of the educational achievement gap in the United States.  But, we also have a college attainment gap when compared to other industrialized countries. 

In one generation's time, the U.S. has gone from leading the world in the percentage of adults with college education to 12th in college attainment of young adults 25-34 years of age.  Three countries have college attainment rates for young adults above 50%, Canada (55%), Japan (54%) and Korea (53%). Even more troubling is the fact that the U.S. is one of only two industrialized nations that has a higher college attainment rate for older adults (54-64) than for young adults (25-34).  So, we're moving in the wrong direction.

President Obama has set the goal of leading the world in adults with college education. At his August 9th speech at U.T. Austin, he reiterated his goal of "producing 8 million more college graduates by 2020 so we can have a higher share of graduates than any other nation on earth,"   Secretary for Education Arne Duncan has called this effort "the North Star" for the Obama administration's education initiatives.

President Obama calls this push to regain international leadership in college attainment "the economic issue of our time."  Why?  He made that point very clear, "It's an economic issue when nearly eight in ten new jobs will require workforce training or a higher education by the end of the decade."

Several organizations have developed plans to help the United States reach this goal by 2025.  The Lumina Foundation for Education has set the 'big goal' of 60 % of Americans to have 'high-quality degrees and credentials' by 2025.  Most other national organizations  have set 55% as their target. (View the Lumina Foundation's interactive map to see where your state stands here.)

Either way, it is quite a stretch. To reach the goal of 55% of Americans with a college degree, requires the U.S. to produce 64 million new college degrees, with at least 16 million degrees produced above current levels.   So, how might it be done?

Several states have developed strategic plans to reduce the achievement gap and stretch goals for producing more college graduates.   Two states have very specific plans for increasing college attainment.  Kentucky has set a goal of 'doubling the numbers' of college graduates by 2020.  Texas has developed a plan, Closing the Gaps 2015, with a goal of awarding 210,000 certificates and degrees from public universities by 2015.

What impact would raising college attainment levels have on the U.S. economy?  According to CEOs for Cities, simply raising the college attainment rate in the 51 largest cities in America by 1% would yield a 'talent dividend' of $124 billion. Raising it 10% would produce $1.2 trillion!

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board projects that if the state successfully meets its plans, by 2030, it will reap increases in $489 billion in spending, $194 billion in gross state product, and $122 billion in personal income, as well as 1 million new jobs.  Similarly, Kentucky projects that if it reaches it goals by 2020, it will increase personal income by $159 billion and and state tax revenue by $9 billion.

Most states have already developed plans to increase high school graduation rates and college completion rates.  However, to reach a 55% college attainment rate by 2025 will also require strategies to attract working adults back to college to earn a degrees. According to a report by the Council on Adult and Experiential Learning, 32 states cannot meet the targets by solely relying on the traditional college-age population. Moreover, even if every state reached 'best-case scenarios' in improving high school graduation rates and college completion rates, America would still be a little over 3 million short of the 64 million new degrees required to hit the 55% target.

According to projections by National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, by 2025, two states (Texas and California) would need to produce over a million new degree holders over and above current degree production levels.  This is conceivable with a broad strategy that includes both traditional K-16 pathways (such as improved achievement levels, reduced dropout rates, rigorous curricula, improved college readiness, and improvements in college graduation rates) along with plans to addresses the educational needs of working adults.

In Texas, for example, only 29% of all Texas have an associates degree or higher.  Over 2 million Texans lack a high school degree (21.6% of all adults).  In 2000, more than one million Texans had never completed the 9th grade.  Over 2.5 million Texans have some college, but no degree.  Clearly, helping adults obtain high school and college degrees must be a part of plans for increasing the percentage of adults with college degrees.

If community colleges and four-year institutions can attract less than half of that 2.5 million to return to college and to earn a degree, that would produce 1 million more Texans with a college degree.  Similarly, if Texas was to get 50% of adults with less than a 9th grade education to earn their GED, followed by a college certificate or associate of arts degree, that would yield another half million Texans with some college education.

Several organizations have made recommendations to help the United States increase college attainment.  The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers are working towards a common framework for national standards for high school graduation reflecting college and career readiness.  Not all states signed on (Alaska and Texas, for example, have not), but most are joining the effort.

The Educational Trust promotes efforts in K-12 to reduce the achievement gap between whites and nonwhites and has expanded those efforts in higher education.  Recently, it has joined force with 24 public university systems to cut the college-going and graduation gaps for low-income and minority students in half by 2015, producing a report to show progress of major public universities. 

The College Board has issued a "Completion Agenda," with ten recommendations: 1) provide voluntary preschool education, universally available to children from low-income families; 2)  improve middle and high school college counseling; 3) implement the best research-based dropout prevention; 4) align the K-12 education system with international standards and college admission expectations; 5) improve teacher quality and focus on recruitment and retention; 6) clarify and simply the admission process; 7) provide more need-based grant aid, while simplifying financial aid processes; 8) keep college affordable; 9) dramatically increase completion rates; and, finally, 10) provide post-secondary opportunities as an essential element of adult education programs.

Meeting the President's call to regain national leadership in college attainment will not be easy.  But, it is essential for the future of America. As President Obama stated, "Countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow."  Those whom we educate today, may be the innovators of tomorrow.  America must invest in its future.

All over the country, organizations and universities are engaged in discussions of how we can rise to the challenge.  In my next blog post I will give examples of what we are doing at the University of Houston-Downtown.

Monday, August 9, 2010

America's Future Depends on Eliminating the Education Achievement Gap

A severe crisis looms in the horizon.  I'm not talking about the federal deficit.  Rather, I refer to a pending shortfall in workers with the skill-sets and degrees that America needs for innovation and global competitiveness.

America is falling behind in educating its citizenry.  We have two very serious problems:  an achievement gap (how well students learn, perform on standardized tests, and progress through high school and college) and an attainment gap (the percent of young adults who earn high school degrees, certificates, and college degrees).  Neither is easily fixed. 

Middle class and upper-middle class white students outperform their working class peers.  Similarly, white students as a whole outperform minorities, particularly African Americans and Latinos. The gap is severest in poor, urban, and predominantly minority communities.   Urban schools are more likely to be dilapidated,  deteriorating, overcrowded, and more likely to have new and often non-certified teachers. See data here.

It is not uncommon for minority children in urban schools to enter the 6th grade one or two years behind their grade level. This is especially true for limited-English students who must learn English as well as subject matter.  Minority and low income students are more likely to drop out of high school and are less likely to attend college. They are more likely to require adult basic education, ESL, and secondary adult education, and more likely to require remediation when they do attend college.

Latinos represent the  fastest growing segment of the U.S. population, accounting for roughly half of all new births. Latinos, most of whom are native born U.S. citizens, already represent a majority of the K-12 population in many of this country's largest school district and are becoming a larger share of the U.S. high school and traditional college-age population. By 2020, nearly 10 million Latinos will be 15-24 years of age, accounting for nearly one-fourth of the U.S. total U.S. traditional college age population.

Unfortunately, Latinos are among the least likely to graduate from high school, among the least prepared for college, are more likely to require remediation, and less likely to graduate from college within six years of graduation from high school. In fact, only about 30% of Latino young adults (25-34) have attained an associates degree or higher, compared to 43% of African Americans and 81% of whites.

According to a report of  the Alliance for Excellence in Education, a single dropout in 2008 cost the U.S. economy $260,000 in lost earnings, taxes, and productivity.  If all those students who dropped out of high school in the class of 2008, had instead graduated, it is estimated that the U.S. would gain $319 billion in wages, taxes, and productivity.

The achievement gap of Latinos, African Americans and poor whites costs America billions of dollars in remediation, lost incomes, revenues and GDP. The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education projects that if the U.S. doesn't eliminate the achievement gap, U.S. productivity could decline by 50%, with a total loss of personal income of roughly $400 billion.

According to a recent report by the McKinsey Quarterly entitled "Economic Cost of the U.S. Education Gap," the educational achievement gap cost the U.S. nearly $2 trillion just in 2008. The McKinsey report found that the effect of the academic achievement gap on U.S. GDP was worse than the last three recessions combined, including the current recession!  So, eliminating the achievement gap is essential to America's future.

How about the attainment gap?  The U.S. is tenth internationally in college attainment (the number of adults with an associates arts degree or higher). Canada leads the world in the percentage of adults with some college education (with 55% of Canadian adults with some college).  Similarly, the U.S. is 23rd in high school graduation rates. The U.S. ranks 17th in the world in production of scientists and engineers, which are key to creation of knowledge and technology jobs. Only about 35% of U.S. young adults (25-34) hold a college degree compared to roughly 50% of the same age cohort in Japan and Korea.

Worse, the U.S. is one of only two industrialized nations where older adults (45-54 years of age) are more likely to have attained a college degree than young adults (25-34 years of age).  By 2020, the percentage of adults with college degrees will be less than it was in 2000.  The only category to increase in percentage will be high school dropouts.

Ironically, U.S. students trail their European and Asian counterparts in achievement on international tests.  So, we also have an international achievement gap.  According to an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), when compared with students in 30 OECD countries, 15 year-old American students ranked 18th in science, 24th in math and problem solving, and fifteenth in reading.

President Obama has set a target that "America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates..." The National Governors Association, the Education Trust, Lumina Foundation, the College Board have all joined efforts to help reach that target by 2025.  However, if we do not close the achievement gap, America cannot regain its leadership position in the proportion of adults with college education and degrees.

China already leads the United States in the number of college graduates it produces (as does India).  But, we are also falling behind economic growth rates and in some other measures of economic performance.  By June 2011, China is projected to pass the U.S. in manufacturing output and value.  By 2050, unless we do something about it, China will pass the U.S. in total GDP.

America clearly faces a crisis.  We must make it a priority to improve the quality and performance of schools and students and to increase the number of young adults who earn college certificates and degrees.  To ignore the looming crisis risks America's economic and social well-being.  It also diminishes our ability to compete internationally.  While it may cost us to address this problem, it will cost us more to ignore it.

View my entire PowerPoint presentation with slides and references here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Does Having a College Degree Pay Off During the Recession? You Bet It Does!

Does college matter anymore?  Should parents encourage their children to seek a college degree? If you  have a college degree, should you obtain an advanced degree?  With rising costs of education and increasing student indebtedness, does having a college degree make a difference?

The recession has made it difficult for anyone to find a job.  College graduates, even those with master's degrees are having trouble finding jobs, although they have been less likely to lose jobs during the recession and more likely to find jobs if they did lose their job than high school dropouts or those with only a high school degree.

According to the June BLS data, Americans without a high school diploma experienced 21 straight months of unemployment above 10 percent with a high of 15.6 percent in February. The rate declined to 14.1 percent in June, the lowest level since March 2009.  High school graduates fared slightly better with unemployment hitting a high of 11.2 percent in October 2009, and dropping to a 10.8 percent level in June.

By contrast, those with bachelor's degrees have not seen unemployment rates higher than 5 percent since the recession began, dropping to 4.4 percent in June of this year. So, those with a college degree were much more likely to have a job than those without one.  View graphs of the data here.

But, how about those with advanced degrees? According to one report, those with advanced and professional degrees did better in retaining jobs and income than even those with undergraduate degrees.  Moreover, college grads with advanced degrees saw real wages increase by 3.7% since 2007, while those with just a B.A. or less actually saw a decline in real wages of 0.7%!

So, education clearly matters, even in tough times.  But just because you have a degree doesn't mean you get hired.  You have to have the type of degree and skill sets needed by employers.  Still, there is some evidence that those who re-tool or who obtain certificates and degrees are more likely to find jobs, particularly if their degrees and skill sets match market needs.

And America is hiring.  While the most recent Jobs Report showed that America lost 125,000 jobs in June, 2010, the economy created 85,000 new jobs. Even so, because of globalization (particularly outsourcing) and restructuring, more than a million jobs lost during the recession will never return.  There is also a mismatch between the skill sets needed for new jobs, particularly for knowledge jobs, and skills possessed by the existing workforce.

A recent study of the Institute of Manufacturing entitled People and Profitability: a Time for Change found in their survey of nearly 800 U.S. manufacturers that even during the worst part of the recession roughly one-third of all manufacturers could not find skilled workers to fill jobs within their industry.

The percentage of unfilled jobs varied by sector.  Two-thirds of manufacturers in the life sciences, two-thirds in aerospace and defense, and almost half of those in energy-related fields were unable to find workers with the skills or degrees necessary to fill the available jobs.   This mismatch is greatest for blue collar jobs, where manufacturers are seeking workers to operate computers and skilled in robotics, particularly those who can read and follow blue-prints, understand and solve complex problems, and possess high-order mathematical and computational skills. So, re-tool and get a certificate or degree.

While there is no guarantee that a college education will protect you from losing your job, clearly those with degrees, particularly advanced degrees, were more likely to keep their jobs in the recession and those who seek new degrees or certificates were more likely to get or keep a job than those who don't have a degree. 

So, yes, getting a college degree does matter.  If you don't have a college degree, get one--or at least get a certificate and re-tool!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

How People Voted on Name Change

As I wrote in the last blog, we held a straw poll on campus.  We sent out email ballots to all students through their GatorMail addresses and provided a link that students saw when they checked grades from Spring semester.  We sent email links to all faculty, staff, and to all alumni for whom we have emails.  The Straw Poll took place from April 30th to May 28th.   Voters could select "City University," "Houston City University," or could choose neither name.  A comment section allowed participants to give feedback and some used the space to suggest other names for UHD.

More than 2,500 people voted, including more than 1,600 students, more than 350 staff and faculty, and nearly 500 alumni. The overwhelming choice in UHD's Name Change Straw Poll was Houston City University with 1,702 votes.  City University received 401 votes, and 404 selected either "neither" or wrote in other names. Surprisingly, each group voted in roughly the same percentages with the overwhelming favorite being Houston City University.  You can view the complete poll results here

Everyone was able to write in their comments on the name selection.  Some strongly support a new name.  Others hate the idea.  Even so, the vast majority of those who voted recommended that the new name be Houston City University.  Why?  As one individual commented.  "When I go to other cities, they won't know where City University, but they will know Houston City University."   A member of the award-winning Powerlifting Team, noted: "When we win and beat teams like UT San Antonio, we want them to know we're from Houston!"

Some people feel that the name will be confused with a community college.  Some staff worry that any name change will hurt recruitment.  Some alumni worry that their diploma might be devalued.  We have assured alumni and students that the university remains a part of the UH System and that the diploma will still be signed by the Chancellor and the President of the Board of Regents, as well as the president of the university.

But, at the end of the day, most of those who voted feel that a new name will help the university build its reputation and develop into a very new and distinct university.  They realize that UHD has to grow, add more graduate programs, raise funds, and develop distinction as university that students select because of its offerings, faculty, and achievements. 

So, what are the next steps?  We're holding meetings with legislators and local elected officials.  We will be having sessions with alumni (not just on name change, but giving them an update on everything happening at UHD).  Click here for the schedule of alumni meetings. And, during the fall semester, will talk about the results with incoming freshmen and transfer students, as well, as with new faculty and staff.

The results of the straw poll, including comments received, will be shared with the University of Houston System Board of Regents.  Regents will vote on the name change.  If they select a name, it then must go to the legislature for approval. We will keep you posted on developments as they take place.