At its Oct. 20 meeting, the new president of the Kingwood campus of the Lone Star College (LSC) system provided members of the Kingwood Super Neighborhood Council (SNC) with a comprehensive overview of the educational facilities and opportunities at LSC-Kingwood for students and residents in Kingwood, Humble, New Caney and surrounding communities. With graduation from high school and decisions about the future by this year’s graduating students fast approaching, it was a particularly appropriate time for the update, along with introducing the college’s president, Dr. Melissa Gonzalez, to the SNC.
Chairman Stan Sarman introduced Gonzalez as the first order of business, noting that she brings a wealth of experience to the job. Before her appointment four months ago, she was the president of Houston Community College-Southeast from 2017-2021. Before HCC, Gonzalez served in numerous leadership roles at Lone Star College including dean at LSC-North Harris, special assistant to the president and interim vice president and vice chancellor of workforce and economic development. She earned a BBA in finance, an MBA and a Ph.D. in international business management from the University of Texas-Pan American, now known as UT-RGV. After earning the Ph.D., Gonzalez was a tenured associate professor of management at the University of Houston-Clear Lake for nine years. Gonzalez has published work in numerous academic journals and presented in hundreds of academic and community events on the subject of international business management, higher education, women’s career paths and topics related to the Hispanic and underserved communities.
“The college itself is one of the three top colleges in the nation. We have over 95,000 credit and continuing students a year. We work with dual credit students with their high school diplomas and their associate degrees, and we have a lot of veterans and military related students. We have 70 associate degree programs as well as three new bachelor’s degree programs in nursing, cyber security and energy manufacturing,” Gonzalez said.
She compared the average annual cost of attending LSC-Kingwood compared to other Texas universities, which is often the deciding factor in the decisions of most college bound students. LSC costs for tuition and fees for a 12-credit hour semester are currently $1,200. At the University of Texas at Austin, it is $5,291; at Texas A&M, $5,125; at the University of Houston, $4,237; and at Sam Houston State, it is $4,268.
Gonzalez pointed out the current student population for the Kingwood campus system is back to essentially normal following the impact of COVID-19 beginning in the winter of 2020 through the spring of 2021. Before COVID, enrollment on the Kingwood Campus was running 12-13,000 credit students. At the beginning of this most current term, it was 11,169 as reported in the September SNC meeting. Gonzales explained the Kingwood system also includes two specialized Centers of Excellence, one located in Atascocita and the other called the Process Tech Center, located on Lockwood Road across from Summer Creek High School. In addition, building expansion on the main campus is in progress.
“I am happy to announce we have a new Health Professional Center almost ready to go. We will have classes starting in the spring semester,” she said and highlighted there will be a formal ribbon cutting at the new building sometime in February 2022. Gonzalez also described the new fire training facility to be located on the northwest corner of the Kingwood campus at the end of Parking Lot C off Sorters-McClellan Road. It should be finished in August 2022.
One of the council members asked about the number of classes now being held in classrooms compared to being conducted online.
“This fall semester we are about 30% face to face. This (last) spring we had 50%. It won’t be until probably fall 2022 that we hope we can be back to normal,” Gonzales said. She explained the college administrators had determined among themselves that some students seem to do better in a remote online environment, and many do better in the classroom. However, most students seem to have adapted well. The objective going forward is to return to a normal teaching environment for the most part.
Sarman, on behalf of the SNC, thanked Gonzalez for her detailed online power point presentation, welcomed her to her new position and then turned to other business, of which there was very little. He reported the ongoing Northpark Drive Improvement Project hydrology studies are still underway. Regarding the Northpark Overpass Project, 100% of the construction plans and its drainage study are now available on the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority website at lakehoustonra.com.
The next Kingwood Super Neighborhood Council meeting is currently scheduled to be held Nov. 17. Due to the continuing COVID threat, the council decided to continue conducting it as a Zoom teleconference next month and until further notice, at least through the end of the year.