Regents approve salary increases, College of Medicine
In what Chancellor and President Renu Khator called a historic day, the UH System Board of Regents approved the creation of a College of Medicine and all other items sent to it by committees during a quarterly meeting Thursday at UH Downtown.
UH still needs approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for the College of Medicine to grant M.D. degrees and accreditation from Liaison Committee on Medical Education. The Texas Legislature will also need to provide funding for the College of Medicine during its startup years.
Tilman Fertitta, Chairman of the Board of Regents, said the College of Medicine “(had) not been a vision of the board initially,” but rather a vision of Chancellor and President Renu Khator.
The College of Medicine will enroll its first class of 30 students in 2020. The College of Medicine will initially be located in the Health and Biomedical Sciences Building 2 before moving to a new building dedicated solely for the new college.
UH will begin the approval process for the new building, which will be located in the health district, in Aug. 2018, according to College of Medicine report presented at the meeting.
Fertitta said with the vote the Board will become a part of history and will be “proud” of what the medical school accomplishes decades from now.
Transfer admissions standards rise
The Board also approved raising the minimum GPA requirement for transfer applicants to UH. Students with 15 hours or more college credits will need a minimum transfer GPA of 2.25 to be looked at for admission. Automatic acceptance for transfer students will remain at a 2.5 transfer GPA.
Previously, students with more than 30 credit hours under their belts and a 2.0 GPA could be automatically accepted to UH.
“Any student that comes to us with a 2.0 tends to have a lower GPA after the first semester, and anything below a 2.0 means academic suspension,” said Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs & Provost, Paula Myrick Short.
UH is admitting more first-time college students to offset any potential loss of transfer students, according to the 2019 admissions transfer policy presentation made during the meeting.
Students with fewer than 15 credit hours will continue to be considered only for freshman admission.
Graduation rate concerns
Raymund Paredes, Commissioner of Higher Education in Texas, spoke at the meeting and said the University of Houston system as a whole is not on pace to help the state achieve its goal of 60 percent of Texans age 25–34 having a degree or certificate by 2030.
Texas needs to increase the amount of degrees or certificates granted by 1.3 percent each year to reach its goal, Paredes said. He said UH is well ahead of that, but other universities in the system are not.
“We’re getting better, but we are not getting better fast enough,” Paredes said.
Paredes said graduation rates for economically disadvantaged students are especially low, and once they fall behind in school at any point, their chances of graduating drop as well.
“Probably the greatest tragedy in American higher education is certainly in Texas,” Paredes said. “Higher education in this country is no longer an engine of social and economic mobility. Rather, what higher education is currently doing is it’s entrenching disparities – not obliterating them, entrenching them.”
The Facilities, Construction and Master Planning Committee, while not sending any action to the Board of Regents to approve, gave updates and timelines for projects currently under construction.
The Quadrangle replacement housing project is 50 percent through the design phase, and construction is expected to be completed by June 2019. It will house approximately 1,000 beds, 200 more the maximum of 800 beds the Quadrangle can currently house.
Science Building renovations are set to begin in Nov. 2018 and will reach “substantial completion” by July 2019, according to the presentation made by the committee. The project has a budget of $15 million, and is still in the design phase.
The committee also said that the Health and Biomedical Sciences 2 building has completed construction.
Faculty & staff raise
The Board also approved a 2 percent merit pool raise for faculty and staff salaries. Khator plead for the raise during the Finance and Administration committee meeting.
“The campus has done so well in meeting the goals, exceeding the goals,” she said. “The faculty and staff have just shown so much resilience and leadership. I would make a passionate appeal for the board to accept this.”
Nola Valente and Andres Chio contributed reporting.