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UH Downtown seeks to meet $25 million capital campaign goal

October 24, 2017 GMT

The University of Houston-Downtown’s new president announced a $25 million capital campaign on Monday to support student completion and faculty development, among other goals.

The campaign, which will formally begin Tuesday, follows a historic fundraising year that brought in the university’s largest gift ever, a $10 million donation from Houston businesswoman Marilyn Davies to support its business school. The school now bears her name.

“Hope you’re all carrying your checkbooks,” Juan Sanchez Munoz, the new president, quipped Monday in a speech to faculty, staff and a few students.

UH-Downtown said later Monday that the university had already raised more than $21 million over six years in quiet fundraising for the campaign.

Raising the remaining $4 million in less than three years may pose a challenge for the university. The $10 million gift this year was an anomaly; UH-Downtown raised about $1.2 million in the 2016 fiscal year and about $2.5 million in the 2015 fiscal year.

Local philanthropists are also focused on Hurricane Harvey recovery after the August storm, potentially strapping existing donors.

Munoz added in a statement that providing opportunity for low-income students through college completion “is a compelling mission” for philanthropists despite Harvey.

The $25 million goal is a pared-back objective from the $30 million goal that UH-Downtown set in 2012. The university said in a statement that $25 million is an “achievable target” to meet.

The campaign was one of several goals Munoz introduced on Monday, about six months into his presidency.

He said he aimed to increase enrollment to 15,400 by 2020.

Fall enrollment at UH-Downtown has declined since fall 2014, shortly after the university introduced admissions standards for incoming students. About 14,440 students enrolled that semester.

About 14,250 enrolled last fall, and 13,920 students are enrolled today after 158 students withdrew due to Hurricane Harvey, a spokesman said.

Several steps will comprise the rebound, Munoz said.

First, UH-Downtown this week plans to launch a marketing video that urges students to finish their degrees at the university.

Second, a four-day intensive orientation for new students aims to grow community and awareness of the university’s student resources so that students may be less inclined to drop out years later.

“It builds a cohort, it builds identity,” he said.

Munoz has also said that he plans to visit all high schools in a 50-mile radius of UH-Downtown to speak with graduating seniors.

So far, he’s met with students at about six, he said, noting that Harvey delayed his visits.

His message?

“How many presidents have come to recruit you?” he said.

In April, Munoz came to UH-Downtown from Texas Tech University, where he served as vice provost for undergraduate education and student affairs and led diversity efforts. He will earn $300,000 annually.

Hurricane Harvey, he said, showed him the strength of UH-Downtown’s community. The university provided financial support to 349 students, faculty and staff, he said. The student support fund drew in $53,000.

“We’re not a small university by any means, but it’s hard not to become friends with fellow UHD Gators,” he said. “We’re a community, we’re a family. And that was most evident during Harvey.”