Comment of the Day: Why Would Houston Want to Reject a New University?

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHY WOULD HOUSTON WANT TO REJECT A NEW UNIVERSITY? Illustration of Master Planners“Well, oil prices are down, the city is going broke and there are op-eds suggesting that the political end of the oil industry is what the future holds in store. I absolutely do not trust UH to ideologically lead the city out of this mess. It’s as simple as that, and I can’t be the only person who thinks that. Anyway, almost every large city has more than one public university system, and it’s somewhat extortionist to insist that everything be channeled through UH simply because that’s what UH prefers. UH has failed to keep pace with the ambitions and upward mobility of its home city, and doubling down on its inadequacies by adopting a defensive stance is exactly the wrong move.” [anon22, commenting on The Best Views of the New UT Houston Campus Are Available Now from the Fairway on the 5th Hole, Above a Trash Heap] Illustration: Lulu

19 Comment

  • I am going to guess this comment came from a UT alumnus, or a transplant. That is the only explanation for a comment that is so misinformed about UH.

  • “I absolutely do not trust UT to ideologically lead the city out of this mess. It’s as simple as that, and I can’t be the only person who thinks that. Anyway, almost every large city has more than one public university system, and it’s somewhat extortionist to insist that everything be channeled through UT simply because that’s what UT prefers”

    Works both ways.

    But personally I don’t prefer the school that has that kind of power coming in and pushing their weight around just because they can in an attempt to capture more students and talent. Why not give the state some diversity in higher education rather than letting UT come in and undercut every school out there. Let’s be clear about the ambitions to take over state education that UT has. The UT system has an operating budget of about $15 billion. UH has about $1.3 billion. A&M has about $4.2 billion. Does one of those seem out of line with the others?

    They are also very misinformed about major cities with two public schools in them. Most major cities have only one major public school. They may also have a major private school. But very rarely do they have two major public schools. USC is private, so is NYU and Northwestern.

  • The UT System as an institution has its leadership problems too, which seem to have waxed in recent years if you’ve been following them at all closely. UT has good campuses, mediocre campuses, and everything in between. It also has a massive endowment and ties throughout state government that UH does not have — and that’s a double-edged sword because it gets more of what it wants but also I think that its failings are too easily forgiven and its core interests overlap with those of the Houston citizenry only to the extent that they can empire-build, take high-tuition international students or students seeking high-margin career-oriented credentials.

    If Houston gets a UT campus, I think that its a legitimate question to ask whether it’ll be positioned in a way such that it is drawing students into Houston for a purpose, keeping them in Houston rather than transferring to a UT campus elsewhere, or just leaching from the UH System. If its mostly leaching then I wonder whether Houston is better served by many different systems or by a larger monopolistic system whose interests are more intrinsically tied to Houston as a region.

    So here it is. If UT puts something unique and special into its Houston campus to give the city something that it wouldn’t otherwise have in its mix of higher education facilities then I favor it. If its just another campus then I staunchly oppose it.

  • David G: make your case. UH is not in UT’s class, and Houston is a burgeoning world-class city, so there’s some truth to the comment.

  • OP has not been to UH in about 20 years, ask me how I know. Okay, I can’t wait for you to ask, here’s how:
    “UH has failed to keep pace with the ambitions and upward mobility of its home city, and doubling down on its inadequacies by adopting a defensive stance is exactly the wrong move.”
    That statement.
    UH has grown by leaps and bounds, and probably in a more appropriate way than the city has grown in the past 20 years. UH isn’t just some halfwit college, it’s the 3rd largest campus in Texas (in terms of attendance), behind A&M and UT (respectively). It does this with Rice, TSU, HBU, and St. Thomas.
    Guess how many attend those top 3 schools? 56k at A&M, 50k at UT, and 40k at UH.

  • @DavidG I’m curious what you mean. UH has done a pretty terrible job of improving it’s academics over the last decade. I think they are right at the cusp of making a major leap forward (a LOT of construction is about to finish) but they are still severely behind the curve. They do have a handful of surprisingly decent graduate schools, but for the most part they very much deserve their abysmal ranking.


    And yes, I’m a UT alumn but I also take undergraduate and graduate classes at UH in a technical field so I feel I can make a pretty direct comparison. I have seen some professors who really shine, and the student body is remarkably hungry/wants to achieve, but a lot of what they accept as good academics simply would never fly at a real Tier 1 university. Things like professors re-using the same tests every year, year after year so students just pass around the old tests to cheat/study (ok in fairness this does happen at all universities, but not at the scale I’ve seen it here). Or math professors giving multiple choice tests. Or graduate students in technical fields not receiving the funds they were told they would in their acceptance letters. Or graduate students not having advisors, or being assigned 20-30 advisors per professor. These last two are especially egregious and not remotely acceptable at any kind of a serious university.
    Or, hell, maybe we should just talk about the rampant assaults and robberies that occur on campus. If University of Chicago can keep their students safe in that hellhole then why can’t we?


    But hey, they’re making the Peach bowl! In all seriousness I do actually think the athletics will attract some better students (which is absolutely part of the equation), but I find it disheartening that a lot of people are still not talking about the other problems at the school that very much need to be addressed.

  • Am I missing something? Does UT not already have schools in the Med Center? So what’s the big problem then, that they’re getting more land for additional stuff?

  • Folks, there’s no sense in making comparisons between the UT campus that Houston is going to get and UT-Austin. Houston isn’t getting another flagship campus from ANY institution, and you’re deluded if UT would pretend to have two flagship campuses. Its not happening.

    If you want to get a sense for what is reasonable and achievable in Houston under the very best of circumstances, look to UT-Dallas (24,533 students) or UT-Arlington (37,008 students) which were folded into the UT System in the 60’s and expanded as baby boomers came of age. Those are your best big-city comparison cases. These schools are reasonably big but the present circumstances probably aren’t as conducive to a campus of that scale over any sort of a relevant time frame.

    At the low end of the spectrum, UT-Tyler (8,862) and UT-Permian Basin (5,560) are the newest UT campuses, formed in the 70’s, and also the smallest. Until it merged with UTPA, UT-Brownsville was the youngest UT school and had just shy of 9,000 students. Part of this is location, but the bigger part of it is timing. They missed the boomers and were stunted, and that’s all there is to it. Lots of other schools flourished in crappy locations on the basis of good timing, whether affiliated with UT or not. Taking that into account, I think that its reasonable to expect that UT’s presence in Houston may be just about as limited.

    Whether I’m right or wrong, there is absolutely no sense in pretending that the quality of instruction or research is likely to compare more favorably to UH than UT-Dallas, at best. UT-Dallas has some strong programs, I’m not knocking it. Its not UT-Austin. Its a lot more similar to UH than like UT-Austin. That kind of bugs me. Hopefully this new campus has some kind of a strategic direction that’ll set it apart, at least.

  • Ok yeah you absolutely have a point. Even if UT actually put in a satellite campus in Houston (which I don’t actually think is the point of the campus) it would be nowhere near the quality of it’s flagship school. The only state university system I can think of that manages to have satellite campuses that are still amazing is the UC system.

  • I know that many folks are averse (or even immune) to data, but the US gov. has recently published information on the costs and benefits of attending college. It did not perform rankings, due to political pressure, but many other entities have jumped in to do so, e.g. the Brookings Institution:

    Their basic number is called “Value Added to Median Student Earnings 10 Years after Enrollment in 2001-2002” (whew). On a scale of 1-100, UH is 81, UT Austin is 74, and Rice is 54. Rice is so low because their students come from relatively well-off circumstances to begin with, whereas UH students come from less well-off backgrounds. UH, with its very limited resources, is a much better value than UT, with its massive oil money, or Rice, with its massive endowment. It is unfortunate that people in Houston continue to pee on UH and it makes me sick.

  • The decision on this campus is not up to Houston, UH or UT.

    It’s up to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. And they will not approve it based on precedent. That is part of their charter.

    There are also no major cities with two state universities competing with each other in the same city, let alone within 10 miles of each other.

  • “not for a full campus, but for a collaboration and research center that would attract new investment to the nation’s fourth-largest city”

  • Open the PUF funds to UH, admit that UT Austin is anything but an “intellectual hub”, and I will be on the first flight to Houston to help UT move dirt on their Houston campus.

  • “Almost every large city has more than one public university system”

    I would seriously challenge that. Most large cities have one big public university. New York – CUNY. Boston – UMass-Boston. Chicago – University of Illinois at Chicago. LA and SF each has multiple public universities, but they are part of the same system (UC). Dallas has two UT schools, but again the same system. It does have UNT, but then Houston has SHSU.

  • UT has been in Houston for over 40 years, with a Med School, School of Dentistry, Nursing School, School of Public Health, School of Biomedical Sciences, and School of Health Information Sciences, AND MD Anderson, a point of pride for most Houstonians, is part of the UT System.

  • So, what is the downside to UT establishing a campus in Houston? Is UH really afraid of competition that should force it to compete academically with UT? UH isn’t going backwards. To the contrary, it seems to be increasing its profile (and would be doing so even if the football team was lousy).
    Efforts to keep UT out seem pathetic and reek of homerism. Embrace UT for the employment, investment and academics it will bring to a part of town that badly needs it.

  • UH has greatly improved in recent years, despite lots of interference from bozos in the legislature who would like to keep it mediocre. Will Sen. John Whitmire meddle with the new UT as much as he does with UH?

  • The downside? There are rules in place to prevent this type of expansion. The state has limited education funds and the THECB’s charter is the prevent the duplication of educational offerings in a common area. This project will never happen but you can’t blame UT for trying. They know Houston is where it’s at – Texas’ only true international city.

  • Well, this campus seems like it will be like the PRC/OCRC in Austin, so the only possible “duplication” might be with the ERP. The ERP is a recent addition, so if it is just getting off the ground I can see why they’d feel the need to inhibit any and all entities they view as potential competitors. Other than that, there does not appear to be any rhyme or reason to their way of thinking.