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Funding for Proposed Merged University, Lower Cost Degrees Highlight State of the State Address 

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – JANUARY 29, 2013 – Texas Gov. Rick Perry used his State of the State address on Tuesday, Jan. 29 in Austin to advocate including a new Rio Grande Valley university to receive payouts from the Permanent University Fund and for the state’s higher education institutions to continue to create academic degrees students can receive for $10,000. 

Texas Gov. Rick Perry
Texas Gov. Rick Perry

Perry spoke before the joint state House of Representatives and Senate and special guests which included Dr. Juliet V. Garcia, President of The University of Texas at Brownsville. 

A new university and PUF money 

Perry called on the state Legislature to approve a bill to be filed soon by members of the Rio Grande Valley legislative delegation to merge The University of Texas at Brownsville and The University of Texas – Pan American in Edinburg and create a new medical school in Harlingen. 

Such a move would make the Permanent University Fund accessible to the new institution, something that has not been available before to the Rio Grande Valley’s two four-year institutions. The fund is a permanent endowment from gas, oil, sulfur and water royalties and mineral lease rentals from state land in west Texas supporting members of The University of Texas System and the Texas A&M University System. 

“We’ve helped nurture and grow a major Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen …. Today, the students of South Texas are able to stay closer to home to earn their college degrees,” said Perry. “This area of the state is crucial to our state’s future, and our investment in the children of south Texas will be returned a thousand-fold.” 

Leaders of The University of Texas System Board of Regents introduced the new university initiative to both campuses in December 2012.  

Garcia was glad to hear the governor give his support for the proposed merger and fund availability. 

“We hoped the governor would be convinced to support the new university in the Rio Grande Valley,” said Garcia. “This is huge. He is not only giving it his approval but the strength of his support.”           

$10,000 degrees 

Perry said since 2011, there have been 13 Texas higher education institutions that have created academic degrees that students can receive for $10,000.  

“There were plenty of detractors at that time who insisted it couldn’t be done,” the governor said. “However, the call inspired educators at colleges and universities across our state to step up to the plate.” 

The presidents of the 13 institutions, including Garcia representing the university, stood on the House floor and receive warm applause from attendees. 

Students attending the university’s Mathematics and Science Academy take advantage of the low-cost degree. The academy was created by legislation approved during the 79th state Legislature in May 2005 and is under the university’s College of Education. 

“The MSA degree is where we start with students in the 11th and 12th grades attending tuition-free for the first two years of their university work,” said Garcia. “The MSA students then earn tuition scholarships if they continue at UTB. They do not pay at all. It is a degree they earn through merit. It has succeeded. The MSA students are going away to post-secondary schools like MIT, UT-Austin and studying at the Pasteur Institute.”  

UTB’s tuition is the sixth lowest in Texas and the second lowest in the UT System.  

Valley creates a presence at the Capitol  

The State of the State address took place on Brownsville Day, a day when city government and economic leaders visit the Capitol and meet with legislators about the city’s interests. 

Garcia was among a group of city leaders Tuesday morning who were on the Senate floor to watch the approval of Senate Resolution 66 sponsored by Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, recognizing the special day. 

Juliet V. Garcia and Rene Oliveira
State Representative Rene O. Oliveira congratulates Dr. Juliet V. Garcia following Governor's State of the State address where he announced support for the new UT university for South Texas.

House Resolution 243 was presented Tuesday morning on the House floor and sponsored by Rep. Rene Oliveira, D- Brownsville and Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Harlingen. Other city leaders present for Brownsville Day were invited to the House floor to watch the vote. 

On Wednesday, Jan. 30 students, faculty, staff members and supporters of UTB and UTPA will gather at the Capitol for Rio Grande Valley Higher Education Day. The day will feature the introduction of a resolution supporting the unification of UTB and UTPA and the creation of a new medical school.

Niccale Alibin, 21, of Brownsville graduated in December with bachelor’s degrees in biology and psychology but is taking classes during spring semester to finish degree requirements. She is a tutor in the ASPIRE Program and will make the trip to Austin.  

“I am applying to medical school now,” said Alibin. “With the possibility of the schools combining, it is amazing. I think it’s interesting to get our voices heard and it’s a good thing we are doing this.”  

Garcia along with Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, President of UTPA and Dr. Francisco Gonzalez-Scarano, Dean of the School of Medicine and Vice President for Medical Affairs at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, will give remarks at 12:10 p.m. in the Capitol’s ground floor Rotunda. 

A rally will take place at 12:15 in the Rotunda featuring UTB’s One o’Clock Guitar Ensemble and UTPA’s Mariachi Aztlan. 

Some UTB students will participate in Walk the Halls of the Capitol to visit selected legislative offices at 2 p.m. 

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