Select Page

The Edinburg school district on Wednesday, October 8, celebrated the Edinburg Centennial by hosting a special program and an essay contest detailing the city and school district’s history. The fifth grade finalists are shown from left: Brianna C. McCormick, Freddy González Elementary (honorable mention); Jean Almonte, Guerra Elementary (honorable mention); Brooke Baus, Canterbury Elementary (1st place); Julissa Alexandra Mendoza (2nd place), Esparza Elementary (2nd place); and Kiana Ramírez, Travis Elementary (3rd place). Also featured, from left: Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg; Paul Rodríguez; Patricia Galindo; Shirley Clancey; ECISD School Board President Omar Palacios; and Edinburg Mayor Joe Ochoa.

••••••

The McAllen Chamber of Commerce has announced that it will hold its 54th Annual Banquet on Friday, November 14, from 7 p.m. to midnight at the McAllen Convention Center. The event also will include the prestigious Man & Woman of the Year awards program. The Man & Woman of the Year awards are presented to individuals who have gone above and beyond routine civic service activities to promote the McAllen community and its residents.  Organizing the event are, from left: Edna De Saro; Tammie Risica; Dora Brown; Ricardo Portillo; Blanca Cárdenas; and Andreina Milpaca.  See story later in this posting.

•••••

With area leaders gathered in Mission on October 7 to celebrate the 15th anniversary of South Texas College, the STC Board of Trustees has commissioned a major study which could lead to the creation of one or several new campuses in the coming years. STC President Shirley Reed, featured first row, third from left, says the study could come up with preliminary projections at the beginning of 2009, with the final report due by mid-2009. Featured with Reed during STC’s 15th anniversary celebration were, from left: Sylvia Bernal from STC’s Office of Academic Excellence; former Rep. Roberto Gutiérrez, D-McAllen, the House sponsor of the legislation that created STC in 1993; Reed; George McCaleb; and Jenny Cummings. Standing, from left, were: Valley Scholar students Adrian Rivera and Melanie Silva; Program Coordinator Marie Olivarez; Anahid Petrosian, assistant to the vice president of instructional services; and Valley Scholars Raymond Manguera, Delilah Castillo and Isaac Pérez. See lead story on STC expansion plans later in this posting.

••••••

South Texas College studying expansion; could result in new campuses for region, possibly in Edinburg

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

With estimates that South Texas College could reach an enrollment of more than 40,000 students in a dozen years, the leadership of the state’s 50th community college has begun an in-depth study of the institution’s future needs, which could include the creation of one or more new campuses in Hidalgo and Starr counties, possibly in Edinburg.

“We are talking about maybe a new campus today, and in the next 10 years, we may be talking about additional campuses, and by then, each campus may have evolved to become independent college, with the kind of growth that we are experiencing,” said STC President Shirley Reed. “We are quite serious about looking at a number of factors which will impact the future of this college. I believe the future of the region, to a great extent, rests with the future of this institution.”

If the study calls for the building new campuses – which would require voter approval in Hidalgo and Starr counties to pay for operating expenses and construction costs – Edinburg, home of the University of Texas-Pan American and the UT Regional Academic Health Center, could add a third higher-education component to its economy.

Reed said any city with an STC campus would reap significant quality-of-life benefits.

“It would be very exciting,” she said. “Our hallmarks for success have been accessibility, being close to home, convenience, affordability, all those factors would be major attractions, not to mention the economic development from having a campus in a community.”

Catch our breath

STC is a rarity among community colleges in Texas: It was the only community college created by the Texas Legislature, and it is literally one of a handful of community colleges in the state authorized to offer bachelor degree programs;

In addition, STC offers more than 100 degree and certificate program options, including associate  degrees in a variety of art, science, technology and allied health fields of study. It also offers online associate degrees in Business Administration, Criminal Justice and Social Sciences, with  Interdisciplinary Studies and an Associate of Arts in Teaching added for Fall 2008.

Not since September 2001, when voters in Hidalgo and Starr County, collectively, narrowly approved a $98.5 million bond issue that resulted in new campuses in Rio Grande City, McAllen and Weslaco, has the two-county community college taken a hard look at locating outside those communities.

Reed believes with more area students than ever graduating from high school, but with the costs increasing dramatically to enroll in colleges outside the Valley, STC has an opportunity to tap into that potential new market, and a responsibility to provide high-quality, higher-education resources closer to home.

“It has been my experience that if a college is really going to keep abreast of the needs of the community, it should be buying property 10 years in advance of needing a campus,” she said. “But we never have been able to catch our breath and get to that point. This is the first time we have ever been able to hire a professional firm, such as Freese and Nichols, Inc., and just do a serious look at the needs.”

$700,000 major study

Late last spring, the seven-member STC Board of Trustees began negotiations, eventually concluded, to bring on board Freese and Nichols, Inc., a Texas-based engineering, architectural, and environmental science consulting firm, to conduct a year-long study of the growth issues facing STC and to make recommendations.

The firm, which initially wanted more than $1 million for its services, agreed to a negotiated fee of more than $700,000.

For that price, Freese and Nichols, Inc. will complete a wide array of duties, including providing an update to the STC board at the beginning of 2009, and a final report, with recommendations, by May.

“By January, we are supposed to have their preliminary information on their fact-finding, their data-gathering. Then, I believe they are going to spend another four to five months and formulate recommendations,” Reed said. “In addition to the recommendations, they are going to have to translate the data into buildings: what buildings do we need, how much acreage do we need, how many cars are we going to have to park, so they can use that to determine the capacity issue of each campus.”

In the 2001 bond issue, Starr County, and Weslaco, which were promised a new STC campus if voters approved the $98.5 million bond measure, gave enough voter support to help tilt the two-county election in favor of the crucial funding.

Would voters in Edinburg, the third-largest city in the Valley, and the largest one without a community college, be prompted to support a new bond issue in exchange for the promise of a major STC campus?

“I don’t know that the campus selection will be decided on potential voter turnout,” Reed reflected. “There are options. It’s not just that the board may decide to put a campus in community X. There may be more that could be done with partnerships with high schools throughout Hidalgo and Starr counties, so that we are in every community, instead of just a few large communities.”

Technology and the Internet

Building new campuses is not the only option facing STC as it struggles to meet increasing demands, she explained.

“The change in technology, that is going to impact what we design and what we build,” Reed said. “We now have eight associate degree programs that are fully online.”

Taking classes from one’s home computer via the Internet, more readily known as “distance-learning”, doesn’t mean students can coast through their classes or cheat on the exams, she noted.

“The instructors change how they do their testing. We have some instructors who require their students to come to campus to take the test, for that reason,” Reed explained. “They design the test so that even if a student had the book open, it would be pretty difficult. Instead of multiple-choice questions, the test may be more essay-style format, and there is a time limit.  We can proctor some of these tests in our computer labs, where they actually have cameras.”

What distance-learning does mean, for students and STC, is that “students won’t have to come to campus, they won’t have to park, but we will have to provide the technology support,” she continued.  “We are also one of the leaders in the state in terms of dual-enrollment programs, so we will have a large portion of our student enrollment in the high schools, which will give us a lot of relief in terms of what we need for buildings, so that will be a blessing.”

According to STC:

Dual enrollment is a program that allows high school students to simultaneously earn academic college or career and technology credit towards a post secondary certificate or degree at STC that will also count as credit toward a high school diploma. Dual enrollment courses are college courses. Students should understand that the amount of work necessary to succeed in dual enrollment courses may be greater than that of high school courses. In addition, dual enrollment courses become a part of a student’s permanent college record and transcript. Students should check with their high school guidance counselor prior to enrolling in dual enrollment courses.

“Bricks and mortar”

Still, STC will eventually need invest in “bricks and mortar”, a term given to describe the actual construction of new facilities, she said.

She gave examples of what types of educational programs require a classroom presence, in a campus setting, and what types can be provided through the Internet.

She gave examples of academic programs which require classroom and laboratory settings not available through distance-learning.

“The nursing and the allied health field, any programs where you have to have hands-on experience, such as our technical programs – automotive, diesel, precision manufacturing, welding, those kinds of programs,” she cited as programs that require a physical presence by the student in a conventional classroom or laboratory setting.

“The very academically-focused associate degree programs, I think we are going to see more and more of those going online,” she added. “Even sciences, whether it is chemistry, physics, biology, anatomy, we are going to see those eventually being available on-line (through the Internet).

Regardless of the Internet revolution, there still will be a need for campuses made of bricks and mortar, she predicted.

“If we are looking at the (future projected) enrollment of 40,000 students, we don’t have the information, yet, as to what percent of it might be dual enrollment. We do know that distance-learning is the fastest growth area of the college, so if one projects that out, maybe we won’t need anywhere near as many buildings as we think we need,” Reed said. “But, I also know there are new programs that need to be developed that would require brick-and-mortar campuses. We have heard a number for this area that we are going to need thousands of new nurses. You don’t train nurses with distance-learning through the Internet; they are going to require (physical campuses.)”

At least one other element could influence whether a new campus in built in the Edinburg region – the planned Hidalgo County Loop, a new highway system designed to carry commercial truck traffic away from congested cities, but which could wind up linking with U.S. Expressway 281 near the Edinburg International Airport.

That project is tentatively set to be completed by about 2013.

When one looks at the proposed Hidalgo County Loop, what is going to happen when that new highway becomes a reality in this county?” Reed asked. “What population centers are going to be expanding as a result of the loop?  Edinburg and beyond, and who know where else will be developed.”

••••••

Transcript of STC President Reed’s overview of campus expansion plans

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

What follows is the transcript of the major highlights from the interview on Monday, October 13, with Dr. Shirley Reed, Ph.D., president of South Texas College, regarding the major expansion study being undertaken 0n behalf of STC:

Question:

Last spring, when Speaker Tom Craddick was visiting South Texas College, you shared some interesting information about a plan to deal with the projected growth of STC. You mentioned that the STC Board of Trustees had hired a firm to examine expansion options.

Dr. Reed:

The STC board hired a firm, Freese and Nickels, about two to three month ago. The staff has been collecting data for this master planning firm – for example, reports on the amount of square footage that we have, our enrollment, requests for new programs, how many acreage we have – all the statistics involving the operation of the college.

We have also collected a lot of demographic data, plans for new high schools in our two-county area, the number of high school graduates in the region, the number of graduates who are going to college.  All those numbers are changing, and many of them are improving for the better. So, we are looking at all this demographic data, and they are also looking at it.  The intent is for them to look at the capacity of each of our five campuses: where we currently are in enrollment; what can we possibly accommodate in additional enrollment; look at the demographics; and then come up with a plan for the future expansion.

I will use this campus (Pecan Campus in McAllen) as an example. You have already seen the traffic, the congestion, it would be very difficult to expand this campus much beyond the development of the (adjacent) trailer park that we just acquired. There are just some realities, in terms of how much a campus can expand. If you can’t accommodate the enrollment growth here, it is just logical to expect to be accommodated somewhere else.

I can tell you that the staff work, in terms of projected enrollment, we do believe it could be in the neighborhood of 37,000 students to 42,000 students by 2020. This is based on a 40 percent increase in the Census data every 10 years for our region. We have gone from 48 percent of our high school graduates go to college now to 52 percent in both Hidalgo and Starr counties. Increased numbers are choosing to stay home (because of ) affordability, price of gasoline. Also, the credibility of STC has just changed dramatically in the last 10 to 12 years. A lot more people are recognizing that STC is a good place to get an education, and to go into some really good Workforce programs. All that is happening, and that’s why we have the experts to help us sort through all of this and come up with a plan that makes sense.

Question:

By when will this company provide a final report?

Dr. Reed:

By January, we are supposed to have their preliminary information on their fact-finding, their data-gathering. Then, I believe they are going to spend another four to five months and formulate recommendations. In addition to the recommendations, they are going to have to translate the data into buildings: what buildings do we need, how much acreage do we need, how many cars are we going to have to park, so they can use that to determine the capacity issue of each campus.

Question:

Online courses, the Internet, what impact is new and emerging communications technology going to have on whether the expansion of STC will be in the form of technological infrastructure or bricks and mortar?

Dr. Reed:

The change in technology, that is going to impact what we design and what we build.  We now have eight associate degree programs that are fully online.  That means students won’t have to come to campus, they won’t have to park, but we will have to provide the technology support. We are also one of the leaders in the state in terms of dual-enrollment programs, so we will have a large portion of our student enrollment in the high schools, which will give us a lot of relief in terms of what we need for buildings, so that will be a blessing.

Question:

Dual enrollment means classes for high school students at their high school campuses?

Dr. Reed:

Yes, we send our faculty to the high schools.

Another major trend that is going on is what we call “Early College High School”, and we now have four of them we are working on. McAllen has their fourth high school actually here on campus, now.  PSJA has one in partnership with us, but it is at their facility. Students are going to start college two years earlier than they did previously. They are going to find at the 10th and 11th grades that yes, they can do college-level work. I am  optimistic that we are going to see larger and larger numbers of our young people pursuing college.

Question:

Then, do you still anticipate the need for more brick-and-mortar campuses, like this one, the Pecan Campus?

Dr. Reed:

Given the volume, if we are looking at the (future projected) enrollment of 40,000 students, we don’t have the information, yet, as to what percent of it might be dual-enrollment. We do know that distance-learning is the fastest growth area of the college, so if one projects that out, maybe we won’t need anywhere near as many buildings as we think we need. But, I also know there are new programs that need to be developed that would require brick-and-mortar campuses. We have heard a number for this area that we are going to need thousands of new nurses. You don’t train nurses with distance-learning through the Internet; they are going to require (physical campuses.)

Question:

What kind of programs required the students to go to a campus?

Dr. Reed:

The nursing and the allied health field, any programs where you have to have hands-on experience, such as our technical programs – automotive, diesel, precision manufacturing, welding, those kinds of programs. The very academically-focused associate degree programs, I think we are going to see more and more of those going online.  Even sciences, whether it is chemistry, physics, biology, anatomy, we are going to see those eventually being available on-line (through the Internet).

Question:

How do online programs work? How does the teacher know whether  a student is cheating?

Dr. Reed:

The instructors change how they do their testing. We have some instructors who require their students to come to campus to take the test, for that reason. They design the test so that even if a student had the book open, it would be pretty difficult. Instead of multiple-choice questions, the test may be more essay-style format, and there is a time limit.  We can proctor some of these tests in our computer labs, where they actually have cameras.

Question:

What would be the reaction for a community which lands a new STC campus?  What would be the advantages?

Dr. Reed:

It would be very exciting. Our hallmarks for success have been accessibility, being close to home, convenience, affordability, all those factors would be major attractions, not to mention the economic development from having a campus in a community.

STC has a maximum tax rate of 11 cents (per $100 assessed property valuation) for the operation of the college.  If we were to open one, two, or three campuses, the college would have to go to voters in Hidalgo and Starr counties to get that tax rate increased so we could afford the operation of any new campuses. That is going to be a challenge.  At this point, we have no idea what the costs would be.

Question:

When will the public know how many new campuses will be recommended to be created?

Dr. Reed:

By May, we should have some clear direction.In January, they are going to give the preliminary data, what it seems to be suggesting.  I have even heard some comments that 40,000 students may be a very low estimate of how many students we will have by 2020, if we continue to grow, and be as innovative and impressive as we are.

Question:

So STC would have to hold an election to increase the maintenance and operations costs?

Dr. Reed:

We would have to have two taxes, like we did before. The M&O, that is to pay for the maintenance and operation, and the other would have to be a bond issue to pay for the construction of any new facilities.

Question:

Would campuses best be recommended for large populated areas, where the vested interests of those bigger communities would help generate a favorable vote to get overall approval in the two counties?

Dr. Reed:

I don’t know that the campus selection will be decided on potential voter turnout. I do believe the STC board is very serious about taking a long-term look at how this area is developing, and where the college is best positioned. We are talking about maybe a new campus today, and in the next 10 years, we may be talking about additional campuses, and by then, each campus may have evolved to become independent college, with the kind of growth that we are experiencing.

There are options. It’s not just that the board may decide to put a campus in community X. There may be more that could be done with partnerships with high schools throughout Hidalgo and Starr counties, so that we are in every community, instead of just a few large communities. We already had buildings here in McAllen (as a former Texas State Technical College branch campus in the 1980s). We made the strategic decisions to serve in the western part of the area, and to serve in the eastern part of the area, and that is how we picked Rio Grande City and Weslaco (for expansion with a $98.5 million bond issue approved in September 2001).

When one looks at the proposed Hidalgo County Loop, what is going to happen when that new highway becomes a reality in this county?  What population centers are going to be expanding as a result of the loop? Edinburg and beyond, and who know where else will be developed.

It has been my experience that if a college is really going to keep abreast of the needs of the community, it should be buying property 10 years in advance of needing a campus. But we never have been able to catch our breath and get to that point.  This is the first time we have ever been able to hire a professional firm, such as Freese and Nichols, and just do a serious look at the needs. They even wonder how reasonable it is to be projecting for the year 2020?  Well, maybe that is pretty far out, but I think if we aim for 2020, we have a pretty clear vision for the next three or five years.

Question:

Did Freese and Nichols, Inc. state what they are going to provide in their study?

Dr. Reed:

We did state what we wanted them to do. The confirmed they are able to do it. We were able to negotiate what they are going to do. Anyone can get a copy of the proposal from STC (by filing a request through the Texas Public Information Act). There is a two-page list of everything they will be providing.

Question:

What was the fee for their services?

Dr. Reed:

It was more than $700,000, so it is a very serious, and a very thorough master planning process. We are quite serious at looking at a number of factors.  We are quite serious about looking at a number of factors which will impact the future of this college.  I believe the future of the region, to a great extent, rests with the future of this institution.

••••••

Fall 2008 enrollment at UT-Pan American increases less than one percent over same semester last year

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

The University of Texas-Pan American’s student enrollment for the Fall 2008 semester reached 17,577, up 142 students over the Fall 2007 figure 17,435, or an increase of 0.81 percent, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

UT-Pan American remains the largest university or college in deep South Texas, based on student enrollment on a single campus.

However, the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College share facilities and faculty on the same campus under one of the more unique partnerships in the state.

Combined, UT-Brownsville (preliminary Fall 2008 enrollment of  6,266) and TSC (preliminary Fall 2008 enrollment of 13,830) reach almost 21,000 students.

South Texas College, by comparison, has the largest number of students in the Valley,  but that figure is spread out over several campuses in Hidalgo and Starr counties. Still, STC reported an increase of almost 11.5 percent in enrollment.

For this fall, STC reported a total student enrollment of 22,066, compared with 19,808 during the same semester last year, or an 11.40 percent increase.

In Harlingen, Texas State Technical College reported the largest student enrollment of the eight campuses in the statewide TSTC system (Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood, Harlingen, Lubbock, Marshall, and Sweetwater, and Waco).

Preliminary numbers showed that student enrollment at TSTC – Harlingen for Fall 2008 reached 5,496, an increase of 539 students over the same semester last fall, or almost an 11 percent increase.

Within the UT System, UT-Pan American’s  preliminary Fall 2008 enrollment is larger than at the University of Texas at Dallas (14,909),  the University of Texas at Brownsville (6,266), the University of Texas at Tyler (6,137), and the University of Texas of the Permian Basin.

The Fall 2008 enrollment data reported by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board are based on a preliminary count of the 12th day of class enrollment reported by IHEs. Historically, these preliminary figures are approximately six percent higher than the final, certified figures that are obtained later in the year, according to the agency website.

The University of Texas at Arlington:

  • Fall 2008: 25,070 (Preliminary enrollment)
  • Fall 2007: 24,888 (Official enrollment)
  • Estimated student increase: 182
  • Estimated percentage increase: 0.73

The University of Texas at Austin

  • Fall 2008: 50,006 (Preliminary enrollment)
  • Fall 2007: 50,170 (Official enrollment)
  • Estimated student decrease (–164)
  • Estimated percentage decrease: (–0.33)

The University of Texas at Brownsville

  • Fall 2008: 6,266 (Preliminary enrollment)
  • Fall 2007: 5,953 (Official enrollment)
  • Estimated student increase: 313
  • Estimated percentage increase: 5.26

The University of Texas at Dallas

  • Fall 2008: 14,909 (Preliminary enrollment)
  • Fall 2007: 14,556 (Official enrollment)
  • Estimated student increase: 353
  • Estimated percentage increase: 2.43

The University of Texas at El Paso

  • Fall 2008: 20,458 (Preliminary enrollment)
  • Fall 2007: 20,155 (Official enrollment)
  • Estimated student increase: 303
  • Estimated percentage increase: 1.50

The University of Texas-Pan American

  • Fall 2008: 17,435 (Preliminary enrollment)
  • Fall 2007: 17,577 (Official Enrollment)
  • Estimated student increase: 142
  • Estimated percentage increase: 0.81

The University of Texas of the Permian Basin

  • Fall 2008: 3,600 (Preliminary enrollment)
  • Fall 2007: 3,559 (Official enrollment)
  • Estimated student increase: 41
  • Estimated percentage increase: 1.15

The University of Texas at San Antonio

  • Fall 2008: 28,585 (Preliminary enrollment)
  • Fall 2007: 28,533 (Official enrollment)
  • Estimated student increase: 52
  • Estimated percentage increase: 0.18

The University of Texas at Tyler

  • Fall 2008: 6,137 (Estimated enrollment)
  • Fall 2007: 6,137 (Official enrollment)
  • Estimated student increase: 0
  • Estimated percentage increase: 0.00

Texas A&M International University (Laredo)

  • Fall 2008: 5,968 (Preliminary enrollment)
  • Fall 2007: 5,179 (Official enrollment)
  • Estimated student increase: 789
  • Estimated percentage increase: 15.23

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

  • Fall 2008: 9,146 (Preliminary enrollment)
  • Fall 2007: 8,563 (Official enrollment)
  • Estimated student increase: 583
  • Estimated percentage increase: 6.81

Texas A&M University-Kingsville

  • Fall 2008: 7,154 (Preliminary enrollment)
  • Fall 2007: 6,547 (Official enrollment)
  • Estimated student increase: 607
  • Estimated percentage increase: 9.27

South Texas College

  • Fall 2008: 22,066 (Preliminary enrollment)
  • Fall 2007: 19,808 (Official enrollment)
  • Estimated student increase: 2,258
  • Estimated percentage increase: 11.40

Texas Southmost College (Brownsville)

  • Fall 2008: 13,830 (Preliminary enrollment)
  • Fall 2007: 14,055 (Official enrollment)
  • Estimated student decrease: (– 225)
  • Estimated percentage decrease: (–1.60)

Texas State Technical College at Harlingen

  • Fall 2008: 5,496 (Preliminary enrollment)
  • Fall 2007: 4,957 (Official enrollment)
  • Estimated student increase: 539
  • Estimated percentage increase: 10.87

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is a state agency, headquartered in Austin, which was created by the Texas Legislature in 1965 to “provide leadership and coordination for the Texas higher education system to achieve excellence for the college education of Texas students.”

Most changes that affect universities, at all levels, must receive approval from the state agency, which is governed by an 18-member board of directors whose members are appointed by the governor, with Senate approval. An executive director, selected by the board of directors, is in charge of the agency.

According to the Texas Higher Education Agency:

College and university preliminary enrollment numbers for Fall 2008 throughout Texas showed an overall increase of 4.4 percent from fall 2007, with 1,273,954 students enrolled in all institutions of higher education (IHEs), up slightly from 1,220,211 the year before, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordination Board.

This overall statewide increase demonstrates the continued progress Texas has made towards meeting many of the 18 measurable targets outlined in the state’s higher education plan, Closing the Gaps by 2015 (CTG 2015), which  seeks to increase enrollment at IHEs by 630,000 students.

Of the number reflected in this year’s increase, 1,134,691 students enrolled in two– and four–year public IHEs, a gain of 50,252, or 4.6 percent, from 2007. Most enrollments occurred in public community and state colleges, with 34,861, or six percent additional students being reported.

According to Raymund Paredes, the Commissioner of Higher Education, the increased enrollment at community colleges is a reflection of the vital role community colleges are expected to play in meeting the goals of CTG 2015.

“We predict that as much as 70 percent of the state’s higher education new enrollment will be at community colleges by the year 2015,” he said.

Texas State technical colleges gained close to 16 percent increased enrollment, reporting 13,461, or 1,851, more students this fall.

Medical, dental and health-related institutions experienced the second largest overall increase of all IHEs with a more than six percent increase in the number of students enrolling – from 16,735 in 2007 to 17,733 enrolled in fall 2008.

Independent academic institutions experienced a 2.2 percent increase in enrollments, from 116,278 students in 2007 to 118,799 in fall 2008, which reflects 2,521 more students enrolled.

The largest percentage of on-campus increases as reported by the institutions:

  • Public universities: Texas A & M International University (15.23 increase; 789 new students);
  • Public two-year institutions: Tyler Junior College (21.79 increase; 1,791 new students);
  • Independent universities: Concordia University (87.06 increase; 1,056 new students); and
  • Public health-related institutions: The Texas A & M University System Health Science Center  (18.37 increase; 263 new students).

••••••

University of Texas-Pan America to offer a Ph.D. in rehabilitation counseling

By MELISSA C. RODRÍGUEZ

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) has given The University of Texas-Pan American the approval for a doctorate in philosophy degree program in rehabilitation counseling.

“With the approval of this degree, UTPA now has three doctoral granting programs,” Dr. Bruce Reed, dean of the College of Health Sciences and Human Services said. “This doctorate will focus on a specialty area of counseling focusing on the needs of people, especially adults with disabilities.”

Reed said the approval is significant because there is a clear and urgent demand in the profession to produce doctoral level rehabilitation counselor educators.

According to the President for the National Council on Rehabilitation Education Linda Holloway, it is expected that approximately 50 percent of the estimated 670 rehabilitation educators across the United States will retire within the next 10 years.

Reed said the main goal of the program will be to prepare educators in the field.

“The primary goal of most graduates will be to become faculty members; however, additional careers include researchers, licensed professional counselors, and administrators/directors of community-based nonprofit organizations,” he said.

The National Council on Rehabilitation Education (NCRE) said there were 26 universities across the country that offer a doctoral degree in a rehabilitation counseling related field. Of these, just 10 offer a Ph.D. curriculum specifically in rehabilitation counseling, and only three with a degree reading rehabilitation counseling, but none of these programs exist in the state of Texas.

“It is the only Ph.D. in rehabilitation counseling in Texas,” Reed said. “With a focus on assisting people with disabilities, potential students can also be drawn from fields such as psychology, social work, education, occupational therapy and communication disorders.”

The Ph.D. program, which starts fall 2009, is a 66 semester credit hour program for rehabilitation counseling graduates consisting of 12 hours of dissertation, 12 hours of doctoral level research statistics and 15 hours of electives. Students holding unrelated master’s degrees may be required to take an additional 27 semester credit hours of leveling courses based on academic and experiential backgrounds.

UTPA has the No. 24 top ranked rehabilitation counseling program in the nation according to the U.S. News & World Report 2009 edition of America’s Best Graduate Schools. With 13 full-time faculty members, the UTPA rehabilitation department is one of the 10 largest rehabilitation counseling programs in the country.

For more information about the doctorate in rehabilitation counseling, call 956/316-7036.

••••••

Alcohol-related advertisements target colleges with 20 percent or higher Hispanic student enrollment

Alcohol advertising is heavier around schools with 20 percent or more Hispanic students than near schools with a smaller Hispanic population, according to a new study from The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education and the University of Florida’s College of Medicine.

Dr. Keryn Pasch, an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, wanted to determine if the number and content of alcohol-related advertisements within 1,500 feet of a school varied according to the ethnicity of the students at the school. Her findings show youth attending schools with 20 percent or more Hispanic students see an average of seven times more alcohol ads each day than students at schools with a smaller Hispanic population.

“According to previous studies, Hispanic youth are at higher risk for alcohol use than either white or African American youth,” said Pasch. “Exposure to alcohol advertising has been shown to increase alcohol use and intention to use alcohol, and marketers are aggressively capitalizing on the rapidly growing Hispanic population, targeting their marketing efforts at this group. Given these facts, I think it’s critical to determine if alcohol advertising around schools is related to the ethnicity of the students and, if it is, to take steps to reduce the exposure of high risk groups to this negative influence.”

In Pasch’s study, of the 27 schools with 20 percent or more Hispanic students, each had about 29 alcohol ads in the immediate vicinity, in contrast to an average of four alcohol ads near schools with less than 20 percent Hispanic students.

Alcohol ads also were more likely to be on bars and liquor stores near the schools with a higher concentration of Hispanic students.

The study indicated that alcohol ad themes varied according to the ethnicity of a school’s student population. Schools with 20 percent or more Hispanic students had more alcohol advertisements that employed Hispanic culture as a theme, and ads near these schools were five to 12 times more likely to use cartoons and animals than ads near schools with fewer Hispanic students.

“Alcohol advertising around schools with 20 percent or more Hispanic students used the culture of the community significantly more,” said Dr. Kelli Komro, associate professor of epidemiology in the College of Medicine at the University of Florida. “Those ads employed visual elements like logos of local sports teams, Spanish words and symbols of Hispanic culture such as Mexico’s national colors. This may build brand recognition early on, putting youth at even greater risk for early onset and long-term alcohol use. Previous studies have shown that Hispanic youth are at higher risk for starting to use alcohol at a young age and for high-risk alcohol use.”

According to Pasch, the alcohol ads also were more likely to feature cartoons and animals. Past research has shown that youth tend to remember a product that is associated with these images and are more likely to use that product—in this instance, alcohol.

“Communities need to press for restrictions prohibiting alcohol advertising around schools,” added Pasch, “with special attention to the targeting of ethnic minorities by alcohol advertisers.”

For more information, contact: Kay Randall, College of Education, 512-232-3910.

••••••

Gov. Perry meets with industry leaders to assess impact of national economy on Texas

Gov. Rick Perry on Friday, October 31, met with leaders of key trade associations to hear first-hand how the current national economic situation is impacting Texas industries. It was the first of several meetings Perry will hold with industry leaders from across the state.

“Although our economy remains one of the strongest in the nation, it is still interlaced with economies of other states that are suffering, and we must continue to monitor the current financial situation closely,” Perry said. “By meeting directly with industry leaders, I can gain a better understanding of how Texas industries are faring and what they expect to see in the marketplace in the near future.”

The governor was joined by representatives from several trade associations, including the Independent Bankers Association of Texas, Texas Association of Business, Texas Association of Manufacturers, Texas Association of Realtors, Texas Bankers Association and Texas Credit Union League.

The diversity of Texas’ economy has prepared the state to withstand the current instability in the national economy, and stronger guidelines for home equity borrowing and lending have resulted in Texas retaining some of the lowest levels of mortgage defaults among the nation’s top 10 most populous states.

The Financial Times recently ranked Texas the number one state economy in the nation in light of the ongoing economic and financial slowdown. States’ positions were based on a ranking of four separate economic indicators: employment growth rate, state product growth rate, personal income growth rate and home foreclosure rate.

Texas continues to be a leader in job creation, generating nearly half of all jobs created in the nation from August 2007 to August 2008; has an unemployment rate of 5 percent, a full percentage below the national average; and is home to more Fortune 500 headquarters than any other state in the nation. The governor attributed the relatively strong Texas economy to the state’s disciplined, principled policies of limited growth in spending, low taxes and reasonable regulatory climate that have fostered an environment that encourages job creation.

While Texas remains in a substantially better economic position than other states in a turbulent national economy, Perry continues working with the public and private sectors to identify opportunities to maintain and enhance Texas’ economic edge and competitive position in the global marketplace.

••••••

Legislation to be filed to increase Medicaid reimbursements to nursing homes in Texas

By SEN. EDDIE LUCIO, JR.

To cope with a declining birthrate that has resulted in fewer young caregivers for the elderly, Japanese nursing homes are using robotic teddy bears with sensors that alert staff for assistance. Another is a robot bathtub that closes around patients seated in wheelchairs.

In South Texas, not only can we not afford robotics, but we are working hard to ensure that we maintain that personal contact when caring for the elderly and disabled in our nursing homes.

Our challenge partially stems from a system-wide nursing shortage created primarily by the lack of adequate Medicaid reimbursement dollars. While this lack of funds is preventing our nursing homes from strengthening staffing efforts, it is also a roadblock to enhancing ongoing programs that ensure our elderly receive the best attention.

The entire state is dealing with underpaid and over-utilized direct care staff. Texas ranks a dismal 49th in the nation for nursing home funding.  We can do better.

The current Medicaid reimbursement rates for nursing homes of $106.59 per patient, per day, fall well below the national average of $153.83, and well below actual care costs. This gap in funding disproportionately hurts nursing homes in my Senate District 27, where we have even higher levels of Medicaid residents, and homes cannot compensate for this loss from higher paying private-pay residents.

In Texas, 75 percent of nursing homes are losing money, and since more than three-quarters of nursing home beds in Texas are paid through Medicaid, many face bankruptcy and closure. And to worsen matters, Medicare does not pay for long-term care, creating a dire situation for many of our elderly, as well the disabled requiring similar services.

In 2005, the Legislature funded nursing homes that serve both private-pay and Medicaid-assisted residents so insufficiently they almost closed down if not for an emergency appropriation by the Legislative Budget Board.

During the subsequent legislative session, we were able to increase Medicaid funding by 3 percent for 2008 and 5 percent for 2009. However, these increases covered only direct care services, so aging facilities, the lack of support staff and other important aspects of daily operations went unaddressed.

These conditions, plus low wages, contribute greatly to high staffing turnovers, which can compromise the quality of care, especially if the employees are required to work overtime. In our rural areas, nursing facilities don’t just care for the elderly, they also contribute to the local jobs base and greatly assist residents who would otherwise have to travel miles for high quality care.

We can’t seem to get beyond the Catch-22 situation that lack of proper funding for the nursing home industry has created. Another concern is the continued threat of Medicaid funding reductions at the federal level.

So it will be my priority during the 81st Legislative Session as a member of the Senate Finance Committee to ensure that my colleagues are not just aware of the worsening Medicaid funding crisis, but that we place this matter on our budget’s list of high priorities.

The current Medicaid rate that inhibits our goals of providing the utmost of elderly care must be re-evaluated. It is unrealistic to expect our nursing homes to sustain the highest degree of services with a reimbursement rate that fails to fully cover the costs involved.

The Texas Health Care Association and others are pleading with us to increase the daily Medicaid rate to $140 per day to bring Texas closer to the national average, and to look for alternative revenue sources or financing methods to help fund nursing homes. They’re asking us to back programs that can reduce the nursing shortage, especially those that help support bedside and direct care professionals. To address staff turnover, they suggest continuing education programs to create new opportunities and upward mobility for existing staff. And I join them and the thousands of our senior residents in asking Congress to vote down any proposals to reduce federal Medicaid funding.

During the upcoming 81st Legislative Session, robotics probably won’t be part of this discussion, but taking proper care of our elderly and disabled certainly will.

••••••

Dr. Cigarroa, M.D., stepping down as president of UT-Health Science Center at San Antonio, which oversees  RAHC campuses in Edinburg, Harlingen

By WILL SANSOM

Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., on Friday, October 31, announced his intention to step down as president of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio in September 2009 after appointment of a successor.

Cigarroa, 50, was appointed eight years ago by the UT System Board of Regents. He became the first Hispanic chief executive of a comprehensive health sciences university in the continental United States, and has continued to practice his medical specialty of transplant surgery part time during his tenure as president.

“It has been one of my great joys to work in this incredible environment for the past eight years as your president, proudly watching the energy of this beloved institution harnessed into incredible endeavors,” Cigarroa said. “It is my sincere and profound conviction that I can now best heed my calling to serve the medical needs of our community through the practice of pediatric and transplantation surgery. With immense gratification, I will rejoin the great faculty of our Health Science Center to contribute to the mission of our university as a physician and educator.”

2009 Legislative Session

Cigarroa said he is firmly committed to leading the Health Science Center during the 81st Legislative Session, his fifth as president. He reaffirmed this to Kenneth I. Shine, M.D., interim chancellor of the UT System and executive vice chancellor for health affairs, and to community leaders and Health Science Center supporters.

“I pledge that I will continue to do my very best as your president until my successor is identified, working closely with our legislators to have a successful 81st Legislative Session, assuring progress on our strategic plan, and continuing to achieve excellence in the mission of our Health Science Center,” he said.

The university’s 8,300 employees and students learned the news on October 31.

“Together, we have done remarkable things here in the last eight years,” Cigarroa said. “It has been my privilege to serve you and the people of Texas as president of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Our mission of teaching, healing, research and service will continue to grow because of our university’s exceptionally dedicated and talented leaders.

“I am steadfast in achieving the goals set out in our strategic plan. There remains much work to be done. Those who do the work — our faculty, staff and students — have my deepest gratitude and respect. They, along with our generous and supportive community, are the reason I am so incredibly optimistic that we will achieve preeminence as we make lives better.”

Strong research environment

Shine said the Cigarroa presidency has been a time of unprecedented growth in the Health Science Center’s research enterprise. Last week, the university announced that external awards had surpassed $200 million for the first time in a 12-month span and that awards from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) had reached $107 million. Those totals were for fiscal year 2008, which ended Aug. 31.

“Francisco has done so much to foster a strong climate for research, not only by building new facilities and fortifying important infrastructure, but by attracting new scientists who are adding to the Health Science Center’s strong research faculty,” Shine said. “The Health Science Center has been on a trajectory of tremendous growth and accomplishment under Francisco’s leadership. The institution is getting noticed and receiving accolades from around the country.”

The Health Science Center is being noticed within the halls of government, as well. “Dr. Cigarroa has done a remarkable job working with our federal, state, county and city officials,” said The Honorable John T. Montford, chairman of the Health Science Center Development Board. “He is a very effective spokesman for all that the Health Science Center is trying to achieve for the people of San Antonio and South Texas.”

Development of cancer resources

NuStar Energy Chairman Bill Greehey’s family foundation gave the Health Science Center $25 million in January 2007 to provide an endowment for programs in cancer research and to serve chronically ill children and their families.

“It was Francisco’s vision to create a future in which the words ‘children’ and ‘cancer’ are never used in the same sentence,” Greehey said. “I wholeheartedly support his vision and I am proud of the great work he has done to develop academic cancer resources in San Antonio, particularly those of the Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute and the Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC). But Francisco will also be remembered for raising the profile of the Health Science Center. Under his watch, it became known as one of the best in the country.”

Development of strong programs of clinical excellence has been another hallmark of the Cigarroa era, Shine said. These include The Transplant Center, a partnership with the University Health System; specialty clinics at the CTRC, which merged with the Health Science Center on Dec. 17, 2007; and specialty clinics of the School of Medicine faculty practice group. The Health Science Center will have a new $100 million, 250,000-square-foot ambulatory clinic home next summer when the Medical Arts and Research Center opens on Floyd Curl Drive.

Greater educational opportunity

Under Cigarroa’s leadership, the Health Science Center has been one of the most diverse health sciences universities in the nation. Several times, its schools – medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences – have reached the top five in the country in the number of Hispanics graduated.

“I couldn’t be prouder that the Health Science Center is educating a diverse student body,” Cigarroa said.

“Francisco has often stated that no qualified student in the state should ever be turned away from a health professions or science career because of lack of ability to pay,” said Joe R. Long, who with his wife, Teresa Lozano Long, gave $25 million this year to establish an endowment fund for scholarship, research and teaching.

Another key Health Science Center supporter, former Gov. Dolph Briscoe Jr. of Uvalde, recognized Cigarroa for expanding the Health Science Center’s educational presence along the Texas-Mexico border. Health Science Center campuses now include the Laredo Campus Extension and the Regional Academic Health Center at Harlingen and Edinburg.

“At the direction of the Legislature and Board of Regents, Dr. Cigarroa’s efforts in South Texas have increased access to health professions education in the Rio Grande Valley,” Briscoe said. “Even today those who need health care in the region are starting to benefit.”

High-quality physicians

The governor has given $9 million to the Health Science Center in memory of his wife, Janey, for cardiology and women’s health. He commended Cigarroa for recruiting high-caliber clinicians who give families more time with their loved ones suffering from life-changing illness.

“He is a consummate physician and compassionate individual. I am pleased to call him a great friend. I am especially pleased that his impressive clinical skills will stay right here at the Health Science Center in San Antonio,” Briscoe said.

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, Ph.D., who like Dr. Cigarroa is from Laredo, has known the Cigarroa family for many years. She praised Cigarroa for acting on the Legislature’s direction to build a badly needed health professions education campus in Laredo and for his leadership in ensuring that the Health Science Center enhanced its status as a leader for South Texas, instead of only for San Antonio.

“His support and leadership in extending opportunities for health professions careers throughout are region are impressive,”  Zaffirini said. “By returning graduates to work in the region, the Health Science Center ultimately is improving health care for residents in Laredo, along the border and in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.”

The Board of Regents will begin a national search for Cigarroa’s successor.

••••••

McAllen Chamber of Commerce to announce prestigious awards at 54th annual banquet

By ROY CANTÚ and BLANCA CÁRDENAS

The McAllen Chamber of Commerce has announced that it will hold its 54th Annual Banquet on Friday, November 14, from 7 p.m. to midnight at the McAllen Convention Center.

The event also will include the prestigious Man & Woman of the Year awards program. The Man & Woman of the Year awards are presented to individuals who have gone above and beyond routine civic service activities to promote the McAllen community and its residents.

The theme this year is “Boots ‘N Jeans” Country Carnival and will feature a wine reception, midway games, carnival food buffet, casino (entertainment purposes only) and mechanical bull riding.

“The chamber always puts on a first class event. The 54th Annual Banquet is the event everyone will want to attend, especially because of the limited amount of tickets,” said Dora Brown, Annual Banquet chairperson. “As always, it’s such a hit – we have to turn people away.”

Sponsoring this event so far are: International Bank of Commerce; Lone Star National Bank; The Monitor; McAllen-Hidalgo International Bridge; L&F Distributors; Compass Bank; Boggus Ford; Border Capital Bank; Portillo Jewelers; and AEP.

Seating is limited to the first 350 people who RSVP. Tickets are $75 per person. Sponsorship opportunities are also available.  For more information, please contact Blanca Cárdenas or Teri Vázquez at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce at 956-682-2871.

••••••

U.S. Attorney DeGabrielle, who has prosecuted major corruption cases in Valley, announces resignation

United States Attorney Don DeGabrielle, 55, of Houston, on Thursday, October 30, announced his resignation from public office effective November 8, 2008, and intention to enter private practice with a law firm in the Houston area.

DeGabrielle has led the Southern District of Texas – the sixth largest office in the nation – with an allocated staff of more than 170 attorneys, a like number of litigation support personnel, and an annual budget of more than $25 million.

With headquarters in Houston, the Southern District of Texas staffs an additional five South Texas offices with Assistant United States Attorneys representing the United States in both criminal and civil matters before the United States District Courts in Victoria, Corpus Christi, Brownsville, McAllen and Laredo.

DeGabrielle, a graduate of McNeese State University and a 1978 graduate of Louisiana State University Law Center, was presidentially appointed as the United States Attorney and chief law enforcement officer for the Southern District of Texas in February 2006 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in March 2006.

During his tenure, he was one of only eight U.S. Attorneys invited to serve on the President’s Corporate Fraud Task Force. He is a member of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee, chairs the  Border and Immigration Subcommittee and the Regional Information Sharing Working Group and also served on the Terrorism and National Security subcommittee.

While U.S. Attorney, DeGabrielle has used his extensive prosecutorial experience to lead more than 170 Assistant U.S. Attorneys and a like number of support staff in six district offices to prosecute corrupt public officials and law enforcement officers, online child predators, violent and repeat offenders, organized crime involving immigration and narcotics violators and white collar offenders involved in a myriad of fraudulent activity ranging from corporate fraud to Medicare/Medicaid and FEMA fraud to mortgage fraud. On the civil litigation side, the office has secured the largest settlements ever in drug diversion matters and sought to see justice done in matters involving the United States as a party.

“It has been my distinct honor and a decided pleasure to serve as the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Texas,” DeGabrielle said. “Throughout my career as a prosecutor,  my colleagues and I have recognized our obligation to earn and protect the trust and faith our positions represent to the American people and to see justice served. I had the best job in the world. I will miss it, but leave it in the capable hands of my colleagues.”

Prior to his appointment as U.S. Attorney, DeGabrielle was the First Assistant United States Attorney to Michael T. Shelby and thereafter to Chuck Rosenberg. DeGabrielle began his career as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in 1986 and has prosecuted a varied array of significant federal cases prompting numerous commendations and recognition of his outstanding and superior performance from the Department of Justice. His career achievements have also been recognized through his selection to serve the Department of Justice as the Resident Legal Advisor for foreign governments including Romania and South Africa through its South African National Directorate of Public Prosecutions

In addition to his service as the chief law enforcement officer of the Southern District and 20 plus years as a federal prosecutor, DeGabrielle’s career has also included service as a special agent of the FBI and as an Assistant District Attorney in Orleans Parish in New Orleans, La., where he achieved the rank of Chief of Trials.

Share This

Share this post with your friends!