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UT Cancels Big Expansion Into Houston

The system’s Chancellor William McRaven announced the decision today.

The University of Texas has cancelled its controversial plan to expand into Houston.

Chancellor Bill McRaven announced the decision Wednesday, citing concerns the project was overshadowing other work at UT’s 14  campuses across the state.

“It wasn’t a particular tipping point but certainly in the last couple of days, I’ve realized this is, again, overshadowing  the magnificent work going on around the other institutions, and I can’t allow that to happen,” McRaven told reporters on a conference call.

The plan faced opposition from Houston officials, including state lawmakers and leaders with the University of Houston who felt it was competing with their territory.

Some of those lawmakers, like state senator Borris Miles, applauded the cancellation.

“I respect the decision by the University of Texas System to not proceed with the development of a local campus on the 300 acres located in my Senatorial District,” Miles, D-Houston, said in a statement. “I met with UT administration and leadership several times, and questioned the recently-appointed regents regarding this purchase at their nomination hearing.”

Tilman Fertitta, chairman of the UH System Board of Regents, released a statement saying:

“The University of Houston is pleased that UT is not expanding in Houston. This was a group effort by elected leaders, our Board of Regents, our administration and supporters to stand our ground against an unnecessary duplication of resources that didn’t align with the state’s plan for higher education.”

McRaven said that he accepts responsibility for not getting more people on board and maintained that it was his decision to scrap the plan.

“I was not able to develop a shared vision and the shared vision needed to be with the civic leaders in Houston, it needed to be with the legislature, it needed to be with other campuses,” he said.

The original idea was announced in late 2015. UT purchased more than 300 acres near the Texas Medical Center.

Altogether the land is worth more than $200 million, but McRaven says UT has paid only a fraction of that. He’s recommended that UT sell the land in a way to protect its investment.

However, the academic ideas around data science for the failed project could live on and find a home at some other parts of the UT system, McRaven said.

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Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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