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Featured on Wednesday, February 26, 2o14 accepting a Hidalgo County Commissioners’ Court proclamation in support of the creation of a South Texas College branch campus for the Delta Region are, front row, from left: Cynthia (Cindy) Garza-Reyes, Interim District Director of the Edinburg Office for Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes; Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya; and Alex Ríos, District Director for Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg. Back row, from left: Hidalgo County Commissioner Joseph Palacios; Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García; and Hidalgo County Commissioner A.C. Cuellar, Jr.

Photograph By HIDALGO COUNTY PUBLIC AFFAIRS DIVISION

Legislation proposing the creation of a South Texas College branch campus in the Delta Region of Hidalgo County, with the proposed site to be located in Elsa or Edcouch, is scheduled for a public hearing before the House Committee on Higher Education for Wednesday, April 22, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, has announced. “South Texas College, which receives significant funding from all property taxpayers in Hidalgo and Starr counties, has an obligation to bring higher education opportunities and invest more of its resources in communities, such as in the Delta Region, which would most benefit from seeing a STC facility in its own backyard,” said Canales, whose House District 40 features portions or all of Edinburg, Elsa, Faysville, La Blanca, Linn, Lópezville, McAllen, Pharr, San Carlos and Weslaco. The measure, House Bill 382, would require STC “to operate a branch campus within the corporate limits of the municipality of Edcouch or Elsa.” The legislative committee hearing on Wednesday comes as Rio Grande City, McAllen, Weslaco and Pharr are positioned to reap the benefits of a $159 million bond election for new construction that was narrowly approved in early November 2013 by voters in Hidalgo and Starr counties. Canales’ proposal is listed as the second measure on the committee’s meeting agenda, and is one of several House bills that will have a direct impact on South Texas College. The committee is scheduled to begin its meeting at 8 a.m., and if needed, continue later in the afternoon once the full House of Representatives, which begins its work at 10 a.m., finishes up for that day. The session will be available for live viewing on the Internet, or afterwards as a video recording in its entirety, by logging on http://www.house.state.tx.us/video-audio/ by clicking the House Committee on Higher Education. For the past few years, Canales has been working with Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, and Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya, to convince STC to establish a physical presence in that region. Longoria’s House District 35 includes Edcouch, La Villa, and Monte Alto. Hinojosa’s Congressional District 15, which covers Brooks, Duval, Guadalupe, Hidalgo, Jim Hogg, Karnes, Live Oak, and Wilson counties, includes Edcouch, Elsa, La Villa, and Monte Alto. Both Longoria and Hinojosa have ties to the STC Board of Trustees – Hinojosa was a founding member and first Chairman of the STC Board of Trustees, and Longoria served on the STC Board of Trustees before being elected to the Texas House of Representatives in November 2012. Canales, Hinojosa and Longoria first publicly brought up the need for the Delta Region branch campus when they addressed the STC Board of Trustees on Tuesday, March 25, 2014. “We outlined a proposal that would benefit the people in the Delta Region. The presentation included statistical data from the U.S. Census Bureau highlighting population pockets within our district and their needs,” said Hinojosa. “During the (March 25) presentation, trustees heard well-formulated plans to create a STC satellite campus in the Delta region. With a college anchored in the Delta Region, students from surrounding communities such as La Blanca, San Carlos, Hargill, Faysville, Linn, San Manuel and Puerto Rico will also have the opportunity to attend a campus that is more accessible.” The Delta Region communities are connected by East State Highway 107 between Edinburg and Weslaco. Although Weslaco has the STC Mid-Valley Campus, located about a dozen miles away from Edcouch and Elsa, that site is land-locked with limited space to expand, Canales reflected. “The Pecan Campus, which is the northernmost campus of STC, leaves huge areas of Hidalgo County with long commutes to attend classes,” Canales said. “A STC campus in the Delta Region would be able to expand in order to serve not only the students from the Delta Region but also from Edinburg and for future students from northern Hidalgo County, where much of our population increases will occur in the coming years.”

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South Texas College branch campus for Delta Region by Rep. Canales set for hearing before House Higher Education Committee on Wednesday, April 22

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

Legislation proposing the creation of a South Texas College branch campus in the Delta Region of Hidalgo County, with the proposed site to be located in Elsa or Edcouch, is scheduled for a public hearing before the House Committee on Higher Education for Wednesday, April 22, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, has announced.

“South Texas College, which receives significant funding from all property taxpayers in Hidalgo and Starr counties, has an obligation to bring higher education opportunities and invest more of its resources in communities, such as in the Delta Region, which would most benefit from seeing a STC facility in its own backyard,” said Canales, whose House District 40 features portions or all of Edinburg, Elsa, Faysville, La Blanca, Linn, Lópezville, McAllen, Pharr, San Carlos and Weslaco.

The measure, House Bill 382, would require STC “to operate a branch campus within the corporate limits of the municipality of Edcouch or Elsa.”

The legislative committee hearing on Wednesday comes as Rio Grande City, McAllen, Weslaco and Pharr are positioned to reap the benefits of a $159 million bond election for new construction that was narrowly approved in early November 2013 by voters in Hidalgo and Starr counties.

Canales’ proposal is listed as the second measure on the committee’s meeting agenda, and is one of several House bills that would have a direct impact on South Texas College.

The committee is scheduled to begin its meeting at 8 a.m., and if needed, continue later in the afternoon once the full House of Representatives, which begins its work at 10 a.m., finishes up for that day.

The session is available for live viewing on the Internet, or afterwards as a video recording in its entirety, by logging on http://www.house.state.tx.us/video-audio/ by clicking the House Committee on Higher Education.

Rep. John Zerwas, R-Simonton, is Chair of the House Committee on Higher Education, which includes Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, on that legislative panel.

Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, is Vice Chair of the House Committee on Higher Education, with the rest of the membership featuring Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Dallas, Rep. Geanie W. Morrison, R-Victoria, Rep. John Raney, R-Bryan, and Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grande Prairie.

Roy de León, who serves as Chair of the seven-member STC Board of Trustees, is the only member of that governing board whose district includes the Delta Area.

De León’s District 7 is made up of Edcouch, Elsa, La Villa, North Mercedes, Northeast Alamo, Northeast Edinburg, North Weslaco, Northeast Hidalgo County, and Hargill.

De León, who is Vice President of BBVA Compass in Mercedes, is serving in his fourth term on the STC Board of Trustees, which expires in May 2020.

REP. LONGORIA, CONGRESSMAN HINOJOSA ALSO PUSHING FOR BRANCH CAMPUS

For the past few years, Canales has been working with Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, and Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya, to convince STC to establish a physical presence in that region.

Longoria’s House District 35 includes Edcouch, La Villa, and Monte Alto.

Hinojosa’s Congressional District 15, which covers Brooks, Duval, Guadalupe, Hidalgo, Jim Hogg, Karnes, Live Oak, and Wilson counties, includes Edcouch, Elsa, La Villa, and Monte Alto.

Both Longoria and Hinojosa have ties to the STC Board of Trustees – Hinojosa was a founding member and first Chairman of the STC Board of Trustees, and Longoria served on the STC Board of Trustees before being elected to the Texas House of Representatives in November 2012.

STC, which was created in the early 1990s as a result of Senate Bill 251 by Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, and Rep. Roberto Gutiérrez, D-McAllen, serves Hidalgo and Starr County.

Canales, Hinojosa and Longoria first publicly brought up the need for the Delta Region branch campus when they addressed the STC Board of Trustees on Tuesday, March 25, 2014.

“We outlined a proposal that would benefit the people in the Delta Region. The presentation included statistical data from the U.S. Census Bureau highlighting population pockets within our district and their needs,” said Hinojosa. “During the (March 25) presentation, trustees heard well-formulated plans to create a STC satellite campus in the Delta region. With a college anchored in the Delta Region, students from surrounding communities such as La Blanca, San Carlos, Hargill, Faysville, Linn, San Manuel and Puerto Rico will also have the opportunity to attend a campus that is more accessible.”

The Delta Region communities are connected by East State Highway 107 between Edinburg and Weslaco.

Although Weslaco has the STC Mid-Valley Campus, located about a dozen miles away from Edcouch and Elsa, that site is land-locked with limited space to expand, Canales reflected.

“The Pecan Campus, which is the northernmost campus of STC, leaves huge areas of Hidalgo County with long commutes to attend classes,” Canales said. “A STC campus in the Delta Region would be able to expand in order to serve not only the students from the Delta Region but also from Edinburg and for future students from northern Hidalgo County, where much of our population increases will occur in the coming years.”

BENEFITS OF DELTA REGION STC PRESENCE FOR EDINBURG, HIDALGO COUNTY

The potential benefits to Edinburg residents also generated support from the Edinburg City Council on Wednesday, March 5, 2014.

At that public meeting, the city leadership approved a proclamation calling on South Texas College to establish a site in the Delta Region as part of an ongoing legislative effort to expand higher education opportunities throughout Hidalgo County.

Canales echoed sentiments first expressed by Edinburg City Councilmember J.R. Betancourt, who noted that Delta Area residents are closer to a prison used by the federal government – the East Hidalgo Detention Center in La Villa – than to a university or college.

“For many Delta Area residents, it can cost too much for transportation to the main STC campuses in McAllen,” Canales added. “But in the Delta Area, we have a talented and growing population which would be successful in a STC site in their home region. All we want is our fair share of the STC resources and opportunities.”

Canales’ efforts followed action by fellow lawmaker Longoria, who secured the support of the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court, which also endorsed the need for a STC site and eventual campus in the Delta Area.

That county proclamation was authored by County Commissioner Precinct 4 Joseph Palacios of Edinburg and County Commissioner Precinct 1 A.C. Cuellar, Jr. of Weslaco.

Hinojosa noted how other major community college systems in Texas strive to bring campuses physically closer to their citizens.

“This type of investment in higher education has proven successful in many places. Recently, Austin Community College announced it would build its 11th college campus. In some cases, these campuses are a mere three miles apart,” Hinojosa said.

He reassured STC leaders that in addition to the local property tax support already provided by Delta Region citizens for STC, area leaders are willing and able to provide additional resources.

“Never during our (March 25, 2014) presentation was there mention that money from the recent STC school bond should or would be used to fund this proposed higher education project,” Hinojosa said. “In fact, Edcouch-Elsa representatives have offered many incentives to make this proposal as inexpensive as possible.”

The congressman said the economic and educational impact of a STC campus in the Delta Region would benefit all residents of Hidalgo and Starr counties.

“An investment in higher education raises the level of educational attainment, plus it encourages businesses to expand in the Delta. If the plan to bring STC to the Delta Region is realized, I believe this will revitalize the area economically, an area that is showing economic promise,” Hinojosa said.

DETAILS OF $159 MILLION STC BOND ISSUE APPROVED IN 2013

According to STC:

South Texas College features the Pecan Campus in McAllen, Mid-Valley Campus in Weslaco and Starr County Campus in Rio Grande City, which offer traditional college programs. The Nursing Allied Health Campus and the Technology Campus in McAllen provide specialized training for students entering the workforce. In addition, STC has Workforce Training Centers at the Technology Campus and the Mid-Valley and Starr County campuses.

According to STC, the November 5, 2013 bond election, which featured two propositions, will have the following impact:

Proposition 1 authorized the issuance of $159 million in bonds for construction and equipping of college buildings. It passed with a vote of 11,642 to 9,503.

The $159,028,940 million in bonds will be used to pay for the construction and equipping of 564,548 sq. ft. of new classrooms, science and health care teaching labs, and technical training facilities at all STC locations. Renovation of some existing space, parking lots, roadways and infrastructure are included.

The new funding from the bond election will be used for existing campuses, but also includes $4 million for a public safety facility in Pharr.

Proposition 2 authorized an additional 3 cents maximum increase in the tax rate for the maintenance and operation of STC to accommodate increased student enrollment and expanded facilities. It passed with a vote of 11,167 to 10,118.

The November 5, 2013 vote was the first for the college since September 2001, when voters approved $98.5 million to support continued growth and services through enlarged and improved facilities. Since then the college’s enrollment numbers have increased by more than 18,000 students to over 31,000 students in Fall 2014.

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Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, represents House District 40 in Hidalgo County. HD 4o includes portions or all of Edinburg, Elsa, Faysville, La Blanca, Linn, Lópezville, McAllen, Pharr, San Carlos and Weslaco. He may be reached at his House District Office in Edinburg at (956) 383-0860 or at the Capitol at (512) 463-0426.

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