Dear Fellow Cougars –
In a few days, I will be attending the annual meeting of the American Council on Education, on whose board of directors I serve. I will also be one of the featured speakers at this important event.
I share this with you not to flatter myself – though I am proud to participate – but to provide one more example of the great strides that your alma mater, the University of Houston, continues to take. I have said if there are rankings, indicators and conversations about the status of nationally competitive research universities, UH should be included in such evaluations. So I’m pleased to report that we are. Our school is definitely beginning to enter the national consciousness.
We are working effectively to solidify the Tier One designation conferred on us by the Carnegie Foundation and, in doing so, UH is earning additional recognition on a number of fronts.
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, for example, has just confirmed that UH has met the state’s demanding eligibility requirements for its National Research University Fund (NRUF). Meeting these high academic objectives is a crucial step in receiving the financial support the Texas Legislature earmarked in 2009 to assist efforts to become nationally competitive. Since the NRUF initiative was approved by the voters of Texas, we will be especially gratified to fulfill their wishes and use those funds to provide a higher level of education and research in our state.
We intend to use those funds in the same prudent manner that recently prompted The Princeton Review to name UH as one of the nation's “Best Value” undergraduate universities.
We join only two other schools in Texas (Rice University and the University of Texas) on this annual list, which recognizes excellence in academics, availability of financial aid and comparatively low cost of attendance. All told, only 150 public and private schools across the country were singled out for providing high quality higher education at an affordable price.
When you couple that with UH being ranked No. 12 in the nation for graduating its students with the least amount of debt (by U.S. News & World Report), it reflects how seriously we take our obligation to make student success a realistic objective.
We are equally committed to continue UH’s transformation into one of the country’s premier research universities. To this end, I am pleased to announce the creation of a $30 million fund at UH to attract some of the nation’s most talented research faculty in the vital fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.
During the next two years, we will hire 60 STEM faculty members. These professors, and the five new National Academy of Science members who recently joined UH, will serve as a catalyst for attracting high-achieving students. Our capacity to produce more STEM graduates – particularly engineers and scientists who will conduct research in these globally competitive fields – should increase significantly. This substantial commitment adds to the current multi-million-dollar investment the university is making in new research facilities, as well as continuing to strengthen our research efforts, academic programs and industry partnerships at the 700,000-square-foot UH Energy Research Park.
Finally, I would like to take note of another accolade, one that reflects the overall quality of education available at UH. This ranking, which assesses “grade inflation” at universities, includes UH in its listing of the 16 “toughest” graders in the nation. We’re the only Texas school on the list, joining such other institutions as Princeton, MIT, Auburn and Purdue.
At UH, we want to create the very best educational and research institution that we can, one that is truly Tier One-worthy. But we also recognize the need to remain responsible stewards of the public funds and private donations that support UH. Maintaining a balance between those two responsibilities has been demanding. But with the dedication of our faculty and staff, as well as the generosity and good counsel of many enlightened alumni like you, we are meeting that challenge. UH is becoming a first-rate university while our students, our city and our state are getting what they pay for. And that is valuable for all of us.