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TMCNet:  UTPB has high hopes for fall

[January 03, 2013]

UTPB has high hopes for fall

Jan 03, 2013 (Odessa American - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- It's a season of high expectations and high excitement at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin as college officials anticipate adding a nursing program in fall 2013 and seeing enrollment grow in its engineering programs.

"We've seen excellent growth historically over the last decade and significant increase in enrollment as well," UTPB President David Watts said.

The university saw a 16 percent increase in 2010 when it enrolled 4,133 students. Watts said the student population continues to grow as the population in the Permian Basin increases.

Watts said with the 83rd Legislature beginning Tuesday, he is hoping lawmakers support higher education and growing the UTPB campus with new construction.

In 2009, UTPB added the mechanical engineering and petroleum engineering programs. Now, mechanical engineering has 140 students and petroleum engineering has around 100 students, Watts said.

"I'm confident the demand for those programs (will continue) and we want to be able to offer the engineering students at UTPB the experience just as they expect to have at another university," he said.

"It really means we need an engineering building," Watts said. The loose estimate for a building to accommodate engineering is around $60 million, though that's without an architect assessment, but a general range for the size of building he envisions.

State Sen. Kel Seliger, who is the Chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee this session, said it's going to be difficult to add "exceptional items" to the budget roll this year.

"We will meet formula funding, but exceptional items -- that prospect is a little tougher," Seliger said.

A goal that's closer to fruition is UTPB's nursing program, which Watts says he expects to open for students in fall 2013. The process to add the major has been ongoing for a few years and is now awaiting a vote by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. That decision is on the board's Jan. 24 agenda. The final step is approval by the State Board of Nursing, which will be determined after the coordinating board makes its decision.

The bachelor's degree in nursing at UTPB will make it the second four-year program since Texas Tech has a satellite campus in Odessa. The certification for becoming a registered nurse is attainable through Odessa College and Midland College.

UTPB hired Dorothy Greene Jackson in June 2012 as its faculty leader. She's been busy purchasing supplies for the program, and in February, Jackson said she fielded 200 calls from people interested in the program. Jackson formerly was an assistant professor at Texas Tech University Health Science Center's School of Nursing in Odessa and also headed the associate degree nursing program at Odessa College.

UTPB has a job posting on its website now for the positions of assistant or associate professors of nursing, master's degree prepared nurses for clinical lab instructors and a coordinator for the nursing simulation center for its bachelor of science in nursing degree program.

While the intent was to have the first classes in fall 2012, the coordinating board's pending approval will get UTPB on track to start in the fall.

In February, the Ector County Hospital District board approved a $1 million endowment that UTPB can draw from annually. At that meeting, Watts said the preparations for the program were going well. Since then, UTPB has made room in the Mesa Building on campus for the program.

"It's an expensive program (to support) and an important program," Watts said.

Despite what the Legislature decides, Watts said the mission is crystal clear.

"We serve because the Legislature asks us to serve and the Legislature decides to reduce our funding or decides to increase the funding, we will make sure every state dollar is spent achieving the mission to educate," Watts said.

--Contact Lindsay Weaver on twitter at @OAschools, on Facebook at OA Lindsay Weaver or call 432-333-7781.

___ (c)2013 the Odessa American (Odessa, Texas) Visit the Odessa American (Odessa, Texas) at www.oaoa.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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