In 1974, the University of Houston acquired the assets of South Texas Junior College and opened the University of Houston-Downtown College (UHDC) at One Main Street as a four-year institution. By the end of the 1970s, the Texas Legislature had approved UHDC as a distinct university in the University of Houston System.
Focused on meeting the needs of Houston's diverse and dynamic workforce, the University's first four-year degree was a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and resident students paid $4 per credit hour. By the early 1980s, it was clear that UHDC was more than a college and the word “college” was officially removed from the institution's name.
UHD moved into the 1990s as Texas' third fastest growing university and focused on becoming a premier, metropolitan university, appealing to traditional and nontraditional students as well as working professionals. Campus growth continued with the opening of the Academic Building and the Jesse H. Jones Student Life Center.
UHD earned full approval from the Texas Legislature and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to offer graduate programs, beginning with a Master's in Criminal Justice and then expanding to a Master's in Security Management and Professional Writing & Education. Over time, UHD would expand its partnerships with Lone Star College (LSC) and offer select degrees and courses at UHD-Northwest at the LSC-University Center, LSC-Cy Fair, LSC-Kingwood and LSC-Atascocita. Articulation agreements with surrounding community colleges were developed to create pathways for transfer students to earn degrees at UHD.
The University's expansion and physical growth continued in the late 1990s. The Willow Street Pump Station (listed among U.S. National Register of Historic Places) was renovated, and the Commerce Street Building opened, providing a new home for the College of Public Service. In the early 2000s, the Shea Street Building opened as the new home for the College of Business. In 2012, UHD celebrated another milestone as it enrolled the first class of MBA students in the College of Business.
In 2016, a 26,000-square-foot Welcome Center opened its doors, and the O'Kane Gallery landed a new home featuring exhibitions for student, faculty, local and national artists. In 2017, the College of Business received a historic $10 million endowment from native Houstonian Marilyn Davies, CEO of Seismic Bailey LLC, to support the College's growing programs. In recognition of the gift, the College is now the Marilyn Davies College of Business. Four years later in 2020, UHD expanded its campus footprint with the award-winning, state-of-the-art $73 million College of Sciences &Technology Building. The new $39 million Wellness & Success Center — dedicated to redefining the student experience by enhancing fitness, recreation, and learning about health and wellness — opened in January 2023.
Today, UHD educates more than 14,000 students annually and boasts more than 64,000 alumni. The University is designated a Hispanic-Serving Institution, Minority-Serving Institution and Military-Friendly School—indicators of a diverse and vibrant student body, just like the city we call home.
Learn more about UHD's history through our digital archive.