A new UH - Institute of Technology campus?OK, so everybody knows that top-tier science/engineering universities can give a big boost to the local technology-startup community in a city: Stanford and UC-Berkeley in Silicon Valley, MIT in Boston, and, of course, UT in Austin being just a few examples. Rice has made great strides in that arena for Houston with the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship run by the indefatigable Dr. Steven Currall (written up in a recent Chronicle interview), and the University of Houston is pushing on the legistature to fund it as a "Tier 1 Research University" - the same as UT and A&M (not sure how that campaign is going, but I imagine it's a tough slog with tight state budgets and just about every other "Tier 2" university in the state clamoring for the same thing).
Now, Rice may rescind my alum status for saying this, but it is a little small to play the local role of Stanford, and we could really use a complimentary UC-Berkeley-equivalent to take us to the next level. The University of Houston is a system with several campuses, including Downtown, Clear Lake, and Victoria in addition to the main campus. What if it added a new campus to the system, adjacent to the main campus, and called it the "University of Houston - Institute of Technology" (or maybe "Houston Institute of Technology" for simplicity? - gotta build off that great MIT brand) with the goal of being the top public tech university in the nation. It could share plenty of classes, professors, staff, sports, and facilities with the main campus, but be a distinct entity with separate admissions and a top-tier national profile. We get the best of both worlds: the main campus gets to maintain its mission of broad access, while the tech campus draws top students, faculty, and research grants from around the nation and the world. It would be a huge boon to the city. There's even a nice piece of land adjacent to the campus, the bayou, and MacGregor Park that could work out perfectly.
This idea also fits what will be a recurring theme on this blog: Houston is currently poised to ride an oil and gas boom for quite a number of years, but, eventually, some new technology will come along and replace it. When that happens, we'd better have made some great civic investments from the good years or we'll end up like a whole lot of rust belt cities in the Midwest. Endowing UH-IT would be a great way to invest those flush corporate and personal profits for the future of the city.