FEATURED: Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, signals for an “Aye” vote in the Chamber of the Texas House of Representatives on Monday, May 31, 2021. Canales, Chair, House Committee on Transportation, passed 21 major bills and many key amendments during the 140-day regular session of the Texas Legislature, which took place from Tuesday, January 12, 2021, to Monday, May 31, 2021.
Photograph By HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY
UT System may buy almost 38 acres for expansion of UTRGV and its medical school into McAllen, announces Rep. Terry Canales
By DAVID A. DÍAZ
The campus of The University of Texas at Austin, “a sprawling urban oasis, is nicknamed the Forty Acres after the size of its original footprint”, according to that now-massive, nationally-ranked state university.
But McAllen may soon have an almost identically-sized foundation to build upon – 37.82 acres, to be exact – with the recent approval by the UT System Board of Regents to begin the process to buy land for future expansion by the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and its School of Medicine, according to Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg.
“When this dream comes true for the City of McAllen, it will join Edinburg, Brownsville, and other Valley cities as major public campuses of higher education and jobs creation,” said Canales, whose House District 40, anchored in Edinburg, is home to the largest campus and a significant component of UTRGV’sSchool of Medicine.
UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, Weslaco, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.
Canales noted that the UTRGV campus in Edinburg also has more than 50 acres available for expansion in that city.
“In mid-August 2015, the UT System Board of Regents authorized the purchase of about 53 acres, located at the southeast quadrant of North Sugar Road and West Chapin Street in Edinburg, for future campus expansion,” Canales said. “You could put a law school and expand the medical school and much more on those 53 acres in Edinburg, and the same goes for the rest of the UTRGV campuses in the Valley.”
On Thursday, June 24, 2021, the UT System Board of Regents discussed in executive session, as allowed by state law because it dealt with possibly purchasing land, then approved the following direction they would take, which was published on its agenda packet, which was posted online and ahead of the meeting:
“UT Rio Grande Valley: Discussion and appropriate action regarding the purchase of approximately 37.82 acres of unimproved land along the south side of Pecan Boulevard between Jackson Road and McColl Road and bisected by Commerce Center Street, located within a development known as 495 Commerce Center, in McAllen, Hidalgo County, Texas from 495 Commerce Center Partners, Ltd. and 495-McColl Partners, Ltd., form future campus expansion and other mission-related purposes, including use by UTRGV’s School of Medicine.”
Canales noted that no other details have been publicly released about the plan by UT System and UTRGV leaders, but said he will be working closely with all parties affected to help make sure the Valley’s best interests are protected and promoted.
The Thursday, June 24, 2021 agenda packet for the UT System Board of Regents, which contains the initial information about the proposed site of the expansion for UTRGV and its School of Medicine is available online at:
The videotape of the Thursday, June 24, 2021 meeting of the UT System Board of Regents, in which the first information of the expansion plan, is available online at:
In the meantime, Canales – who serves as Chair, House Committee of Transportation, did provide some background information relating to the location of the proposed McAllen campus, including:
• 495 Commerce Center is a 110-acre master-planned, mixed-use business park in McAllen, Texas. 495 Commerce Center is the only Class “A” business park south of San Antonio and is professionally planned to put businesses on the fast track to success. This prime development is thoughtfully designed with landscaping elements that enhance the whole park from the jogging trails to the central water feature focal point.
• 495 Commerce Center is a secure investment. The business park offers various sized lots starting at 1 acre that are ultimately customized to fit the client’s needs. An Owners Association and Common Area Maintenance program promote property values while the Architectural & Development Standards control building types, uses, mix, as well as the quality of construction, parking, landscaping, and the architectural character of the project; and
• 495 Commerce Center is strategically located on 495 (Pecan) between McColl and Jackson, a prominent thoroughfare that offers high visibility and easy access to major transportation arteries (US Hwy 281 & Exp 83). This location provides excellent access to nearby international bridges, the Hidalgo County Courthouse, the medical districts, the main post office, UPS & FedEx hubs, and the McAllen international airport.
The Texas A&M University System and South Texas College, both public institutions of higher education, also have a significant presence in McAllen.
Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas A&M University leaders, including A&M System Chancellor John Sharp, on Thursday, October 28, 2018, dedicated the $40 million Texas A&M McAllen Higher Education Center at McAllen, which is located at 6200 Tres Lagos Blvd.
The City of McAllen provided a 100-acre tract as a ground lease to the A&M System, and the City of McAllen and Hidalgo County facilitated local financing of $10 million toward the $40 million construction cost as well as $24 million in infrastructure (streets, utilities, and drainage) that will benefit the higher education center.
The Texas A&M School of Public Health offers several degree plans at the new McAllen Higher Learning Center. Located in the 20th most populated city in Texas, the center was opened in the fall of 2018 to continue the university’s commitment to supporting the educational needs of Texas with top-tier educational programs that will fulfill individual student career goals, enhance the continued economic development of the region and help provide the necessary skilled workforce.
Founded in 1993, South Texas College – which has three major campuses in McAllen – offers more than 127 degree & certificate options, including associate degrees in a variety of liberal art, social science, business, math, science, technology, advanced manufacturing, and allied health fields of study. Additionally, South Texas College is the only community college in the State of Texas to offer five baccalaureate degrees. South Texas College has a faculty and staff of more than 2,200 to serve the college’s five campuses, two higher education centers, and one virtual campus.
TEXAS TECH UNIVERSITY, SOUTH TEXAS COLLEGE SIGN AGREEMENT TO FURTHER ONLINE EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES IN RIO GRANDE VALLEY
Texas Tech University‘s eLearning & Academic Partnerships recently signed a memorandum of understanding with South Texas College (STC) to help STC students transfer more seamlessly to Texas Tech and receive an online bachelor’s degree after earning their associate degree.
The announcement was made on Saturday, July 24, 2021.
The memorandum allows Texas Tech and STC to work together to promote transfer and completion at both institutions. If any STC student completes their associate degree (60 hours) and has at least a 3.5 GPA, they can apply for a Proven Achievers Scholarship from Texas Tech.
“Texas Tech is excited to partner with South Texas College to offer new opportunities for students in the Rio Grande Valley to complete their degrees online,” said Justin Louder, Associate Vice Provost of eLearning & Academic Partnerships and Interim Superintendent of TTU K-12.
“The more than 90 high-quality online degrees offered by Texas Tech can be completed from anywhere and are taught by the same faculty who teach on the main campus in Lubbock,” Louder said. “Once a South Texas College student completes their associate degree, they can apply for the Proven Achievers Scholarship, which provides up to $4,000 in financial aid a year.”
Additionally, if an STC student transfers to Texas Tech before they complete their associate degree with STC, they can still receive their associate degree after completing their remaining requirements at Texas Tech via reverse transfer.
“Texas Tech is glad to partner with South Texas College,” said Melanie Hart, Vice Provost of eLearning & Academic Partnerships and a professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Sport Management. “This agreement allows South Texas College students to transfer easily to Texas Tech. Because we have a number of high-quality online degree programs, students do not have to leave their homes and move to Lubbock to complete a bachelor’s degree with Texas Tech.”
Further, the memorandum permits Texas Tech to create articulation agreements or program-to-program agreements. This is where the two institutions can maximize courses taken at STC to transfer to a specific Texas Tech program to create a truly seamless transfer opportunity for students.
“We at South Texas College are overjoyed to be partnering with a world-class institution like Texas Tech University,” said Kelli Anne Davis, Director of the University Relations, Transfer & Articulation Center at STC. “We believe students from the Rio Grande Valley deserve to be provided with as many pathways to bachelor-degree completion as possible. The programs at Texas Tech are second-to-none, and we have seen our students expressing more interest to move out of the valley to attain their educational goals. This agreement provides more access to high-quality educational opportunities for our students.”
UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS SYSTEM BOARD OF REGENTS VOTES TO APPROVE THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN LONGHORNS JOINING THE SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE
The University of Texas System Board of Regents on Friday, July 30, 2021, unanimously voted to approve The University of Texas at Austin joining the Southeastern Conference at the expiration of its current grant of rights contract with the Big 12 Conference.
Board Chairman Kevin Eltife released the following statement:
“Our board met today to discuss the ever-changing landscape of collegiate athletics and the invitation from the Southeastern Conference to The University of Texas at Austin. Recognizing the impact this would have on our athletics programs, the board unanimously voted to approve this conference realignment upon the expiration of our current agreement with the Big 12.”
University of Texas System Chancellor James B. Milliken released the following statement after the board’s vote:
“Today’s action by the Board of Regents is in the best interests of UT student-athletes, the UT Austin athletics program overall, and the university. This move ensures a strong future for an outstanding athletics program, providing the opportunity for our student-athletes to compete at the highest levels.”
During the Friday, July 30, 2021 board meeting Chairman Kevin Eltife, President Jay Hartzell, and Vice President and Director of Athletics Chris Del Conte delivered the following statements:
From Chairman Kevin Eltife:
Before I call for a motion, I would like to make a few comments as I plan to vote in favor of accepting the invitation for The University of Texas at Austin to join the Southeastern Conference in 2025. We are honored to receive the invitation. I am grateful to the SEC and to Commissioner Sankey for considering our request for membership and to the League of Presidents and Chancellors for their unanimous vote and support.
I am particularly grateful and want to express my appreciation to the chairman of the Texas A&M Board of Regents, Tim Leach, and the entire Board of Regents at Texas A&M for their support. Yes, our two schools can be competitive, but we have a rich tradition of working together, and that will continue, as at the end of the day both of our institutions care deeply about our students and our commitment to higher education in the State of Texas.
Just this past Monday, we told the Big 12 that we did not intend to renew our grant of rights agreement when it expires in 2025. We then petitioned the Southeastern Conference for membership at the end of our current agreement. We received word yesterday evening that they responded to our request and voted to invite The University of Texas to participate in the SEC at the end of our current agreement.
Over the last 25 years, we’ve benefitted from our strong relationship with our valued Big 12 Conference partners. They’ve provided great competitive contests. Together we created a shared history during this chapter. As our relationship evolves, we will continue to fulfill our obligations to them through the end of our time together.
From President Jay Hartzell:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to first thank the Board of Regents of the UT System for your consideration today of the invitation from the Southeastern Conference to The University of Texas. This is a monumental decision for UT athletics, our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and fans. And, because of the inextricable link between our athletic and academic endeavors, this is also a monumental decision for our entire university.
Collegiate athletics is changing rapidly whether any of us wants it to or not. This is evidenced by a critical Supreme Court decision and landmark legislation from several states across the country. Issues such as name, image, and likeness; declining cable television subscriptions; college football playoff expansion; the transfer portal; and the impact of a global pandemic on sports, just to name a few, have proved that a transformation in collegiate athletics is happening around us.
While our university has enjoyed over 25 years in the Big 12 Conference, we recognize that we must be willing to make changes with our eyes on the future. In a world of uncertainty and change, it is incumbent upon us as leaders to protect and enhance our athletic program and university. In order to do so, we looked at conferences across the country and concluded that the SEC was the best fit for our future.
The reasons are many: the stability and strength of the league and its leadership, the level of visibility for our student-athletes, some of the toughest athletic competition, and exciting stadiums that are similar in capacity and attendance to ours. It should also be noted that this move allows us to protect and rekindle some key rivalries, including the chance to regularly compete with the University of Oklahoma, University of Arkansas, and Texas A&M University.
On Monday, we alerted the Big 12 that we would not be renewing our grant of rights agreement in 2025 — four years down the road. We told the Big 12 that we intend to honor our current agreement while knowing that notice now is the fairest way to allow the conference to plan for its future beyond 2025. On Tuesday, we sent a letter to the Southeastern Conference requesting membership in that conference at the end of our current agreement. Yesterday afternoon, the SEC unanimously voted to accept our request and invited us to join them in 2025.
I want to thank the SEC leadership, Commissioner Sankey, and the chancellors and presidents of the SEC for their support of this move. I especially want to thank the new president of Texas A&M, Katherine Banks, for her support, and I concur with the conclusion that this is the best outcome for the flagship institutions of both of these key university systems of Texas.
Finally, I’d like to thank my colleague, OU President Joe Harroz. I know we’re both looking forward to continuing our 120-year-old rivalry.
This is the right decision at the right time for the future of our UT athletics programs. I am grateful for the guidance of our Chairman and the support of our Board of Regents. I am also grateful for the support of our Chancellor and the UT System leadership. I’d like to thank our fantastic athletics director, Chris Del Conte, for his leadership. There’s nobody I’d rather have guiding our incredible athletics department through these changing times.
Finally, I’d like to thank my incomparable UT leadership team, who worked tirelessly to set this institution and our athletics department on this path continuing to focus on excellence, strength, and stability. I believe the greatest and most exciting days for Texas Longhorns athletics are ahead of us.
I’d like Chris Del Conte, our Vice President and Director of Athletics, to share some remarks.
From Vice President and Director of Athletics Chris Del Conte:
Thank you, President Hartzell.
First and foremost, I’m so appreciative of Chairman Eltife and President Hartzell. I say it all the time: Their leadership, vision, wisdom, and passion are second to none. They constantly inspire me, and this was another awesome opportunity to work alongside them as we navigated through it. I am truly grateful for their boldness and the steps they helped us take to evaluate the dynamics of collegiate athletics and to position our university and our athletics programs for continued stability and success.
We shouldn’t go forward without appreciating where we’ve been and where we are. 2021 will be our 26th year in the Big 12, and we’ve had so many great experiences and memories and will continue to engage in competition and work with many great colleagues in our league going forward through our contract that runs until 2025. I personally have made many great friendships in the Big 12. I have respect, admiration, and appreciation for them. I look forward to continuing that.
Today is an exciting day. There’s a lot of opportunity on the horizon, and we feel great about our future. So, as we head into Big 12 action this fall, we’ll be competing as hard as ever, striving to be champions on and off the field, and representing our league with the pride and passion that epitomizes our Texas Longhorns. We have a rich tradition and history, and we will continue to compete proudly as members of the Big 12 as we prepare for our future in the SEC in 2025.
About The University of Texas System
For more than 130 years, The University of Texas System has been committed to improving the lives of Texans and people all over the world through education, research, and health care. With 13 institutions, an enrollment of more than 243,000 students, and an operating budget of $21.7 billion (FY 2021), the UT System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States. UT institutions produce more than 64,000 graduates annually and award more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees and more than half of its medical degrees.
Collectively, UT-owned and affiliated hospitals and clinics accounted for more than 8.6 million outpatient visits and almost 1.8 million hospital days in 2020. UT institutions also are among the most innovative in the world, collectively ranking No. 4 for most U.S. patents granted in 2020, and the UT System is No. 1 in Texas and No. 2 in the nation in federal research expenditures. The UT System also is one of the largest employers in Texas, with more than 21,000 faculty – including Nobel laureates and members of the National Academies – and more than 85,000 health care professionals, researchers, and support staff.
Amanda Bowman contributed to this article. For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).