FEATURED, FROM LEFT: Edinburg school board trustee Dr. Luis “Louie” G. Alamia and Edinburg City Councilmember Dan Díaz flash the Vaquero (cowboy) hand sign of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. The two men were among some 200 UTRGV Edinburg CISD Collegiate High School students and 100 elected officials and university administrators present at the groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday, November 29, 2022 for the state-of-the-art public education facility.
Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR
Edinburg school board trustee Dr. Luis “Louie” G. Alamia, PT, DPT, and Rio Grande Valley state lawmakers praise positive impact of $26 million UTRGV Edinburg CISD Collegiate High School
The Edinburg school district’s four state lawmakers – Sen. Juan Hinojosa, Rep. Terry Canales, Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, and Rep. Óscar Longoria – along with Edinburg school board trustee Dr. Luis “Louie” G. Alamia, PT, DPT – are praising the upcoming construction of the $26 million University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Edinburg CISD Collegiate High School.
UTRGV and Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District leaders broke ground on Tuesday, November 29, 2022, for the new collegiate high school, to be located at 1407 E. Freddy González Drive, just off the Expressway 281 frontage.
The complex, set to open in January 2024 to serve Edinburg students, will be a 76,482 square-foot facility.
It represents a partnership between the Edinburg school district and UTRGV.
UTRGV President Guy Bailey has previously said the university’s role in the partnership gives students an educational opportunity unmatched in the state.
“UTRGV full-time faculty are teaching the classes, and the students pay no tuition. They will graduate only two years away from a bachelor’s degree,” Bailey said. “This kind of preparation will make them highly competitive, and it’s our hope that the students enrolled at this collegiate high school will turn to UTRGV when choosing their undergraduate career.”
UTRGV and the Edinburg school district on Wednesday, March 23, 2022 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) establishing support for the partnership’s academic programming.
Classes began in August 2022 for the UTRGV Edinburg CISD Collegiate High School with more than 200 students taking courses in temporary portable buildings.
The UTRGV Edinburg CISDCollegiate High School will be two stories, with three large classrooms, 20 smaller classrooms, a library and cafeteria, and 24 staff offices. In addition, the facility will have 10 labs, for a 2-to-1 classroom-to-lab ratio.
Samir Zayed, Project Manager with D. Wilson Construction Co., said the students require that many labs for their college-level courses.
“It’s the right number of labs for these specialized students,” Zayed said. “It’s not just a high school – it’s a collegiate school.”
Alamia pledges to work with state lawmakers on key education priorities
With the 88th Texas Legislature already underway for its five-month regular session, Alamia said he will be taking very active roles on major legislation by Rio Grande Valley legislators that will improve public and higher education in Edinburg.
“UTRGV, South Texas College, Texas A&M College Higher Education Center in McAllen, and Texas State Technical College in Harlingen are among the higher education systems that affect and benefit public education, economic development and job growth in Edinburg,” he noted. “It is in the best interest of the Edinburg school board that we take active roles in the legislative agendas of these colleges and universities, and that we work closely with our state lawmakers, to make sure all of them succeed in and for the Edinburg school district.”
The 88th Texas Legislature returned for its 140-day regular session on Tuesday, January 10, 2023, and will be in session until Monday, May 30, 2023.
“There are so many leaders in the Valley and across the state who deserve credit for this amazing development, but it could never have happened if it wasn’t for the fact that the Edinburg school district and UTRGV have outstanding faculty, staff, and especially high-quality students from all walks of life who will guarantee its success,” Alamia said.
He emphasized that the UTRGV Edinburg CISD Collegiate High School is part of the school district’s elected and appointed leaders’ efforts to provide a high-quality educational experience for all students.
“The UTRGV Edinburg CISD Collegiate High School is just the most recent example of our stated vision, which is for our students to ‘master the competencies to be life-long learners, to compete, contribute, and succeed in the global community through positive attitudes and high expectations,’” Alamia said. “No matter what a student wants to become when they attend and graduate from the Edinburg school district, we make every resource available to help them achieve their dreams for a wonderful life.”
Valley state legislators support UTRGV collegiate high schools
The Edinburg school district’s state legislative delegation members were unanimous in their support of UTRGV leadership’s vision for collegiate high schools in the Valley.
Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, has a significant portion of the Edinburg school district in his House District 40 legislative district.
“This collegiate high school – like all of the high schools in my House District 40 – will continue to change the lives of our young for the better, and in doing so, improve the lives for all of us,” said Canales. “The UTRGV Edinburg CISD Collegiate High School will be providing high-quality dual credit classes at no cost, while giving them a huge head start as they graduate high school. This creative partnership between UTRGV and the Edinburg school district will help ensure even more of our local students to have opportunities to succeed in college.”
The UTRGV Edinburg CISD Collegiate High School shall offer a traditional high school curriculum, with special emphasis on Dual-Credit Educational Programs, as well as postsecondary higher-education programs, for undergraduate or higher courses of study provided by UTRGV. Academic programming includes pathways in the areas of education, engineering, computer science and health professions.
Under Dual Credit Educational Programs, high school students can enroll in postsecondary classes, while simultaneously completing high school coursework. This gives students the ability to get a jumpstart on their education or career goals as they earn credits toward a degree or professional credential while still in school.
Verónica Gonzáles, Senior Vice President for Governmental and Community Relations, UTRGV, explained the differences between the terms dual credit and dual enrollment found in partnerships throughout the Valley and Texas between local school districts, colleges and universities.
“Technically, dual credit is a form of dual enrollment, with dual enrollment being a larger umbrella term,” said Gonzáles, a former House District 41 state representative from 2005 to 2012. “Not all dual enrollment programs are dual credit based on the definition. Therefore, UTRGV’s collegiate high schools operate dual credit programs. The best way I can answer this question is to provide the statutory definitions of both dual credit and dual enrollment as defined by the Texas Administrative Code (TAC: Title 19, Part 1, Chapter 4, Subchapter D, Rule §4.83).”
• Dual Credit: A system under which an eligible high school student enrolls in college course(s) and receives credit for the course(s) from both the college and the high school. While dual credit courses are often taught on the secondary school campus to high school students only, applicable sections of these rules, §4.84(a) and §4.85(a), (b), (g), (h), (i) of this title (relating to Dual Credit Partnerships), apply irrespective of location or mode of delivery. Dual credit is also referred to as concurrent course credit; the terms are equivalent; and
• Dual Enrollment (previously referred to as dual or concurrent enrollment): Refers to a system under which a student is enrolled in more than one educational institution (including a public high school and public institution of higher education). When a student in a dual enrollment system enrolls in courses that student earns appropriate course credit from each distinct educational institution that offered the course. Dual enrollment is not equivalent to dual credit.
UTRGV also participates with the Harlingen school district with a collegiate high school already in that city, while a groundbreaking for a similar collegiate high school in McAllen took place on Thursday, January 18, 2023.
Rep. Óscar Longoria, D-Mission, whose House District 35 includes portions of northern Hidalgo County which is served by the Edinburg school district, said he supports the university’s efforts to bring more higher eduction resources to high school students throughout the Valley.
“UTRGV operates a Collegiate High School in Harlingen, and maintains a longstanding partnership with Brownsville Independent School District in support of the Brownsville Early College High School (BECHS),” he noted. “Additionally, UTRGV provides school districts throughout the region the opportunity to partner for dual credit, giving students the opportunity to enroll in core courses at UTRGV campuses in Brownsville, Edinburg, or online.”
The collegiate high schoolswill offer a traditional high school curriculum, with special emphasis on Dual-Credit Educational Programs, as well as postsecondary higher-education programs, for undergraduate or higher courses of study to be provided by UTRGV. Academic programming will be specific to each school district’s students and will include pathways in the areas of education, engineering, computer science and health professions.”
Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, whose Senate District 20 includes the Edinburg and McAllen UTRGV collegiate high schools, provided additional details on how those high schools will function.
“Each UTRGV Collegiate High School is based on the same principles: Academic focus on coursework that will apply to a bachelor’s degree; creating an environment that fosters learning through active engagement between students and faculty; and giving students the opportunity to connect with the university and future academic majors,” Hinojosa said. “Since these are high school campuses affiliated with school districts, any differences truly come from that affiliation. District culture, traditions, etc., related to high schools within those districts come into play.”
Regarding the name for the Edinburg campus, Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, shed light on how that came to be.
“The official name will be UTRGV Edinburg CISD Collegiate High School. The name is in line with current UTRGV practice for collegiate high schools,” Guerra said, whose House District 41 includes the Edinburg school district. “I understand that there was never a formal discussion that entertained other options. The name naturally came about since it reflected both the university’s and school district’s commitment to the project, and mirrored what was already established with the UTRGV Harlingen Collegiate High School.”
ECISD, UTRGV both investing in construction
The UTRGV Edinburg CISD Collegiate High School will be built with funds provided by both the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and the Edinburg school district.
“On Wednesday, November 16, 2022, the UT System Board of Regents, meeting in Austin, approved $15.07 million as its financial contribution for the campus, which UTRGV officials have previously said will be unlike any other in the Rio Grande Valley,” said Alamia. “The Edinburg school district has pledged to match UTRGV’s financial investment, which will make our UTRGV Edinburg CISD Collegiate High School the latest crown jewel in education for both UTRGV and ECISD.”
Some 200 UTRGV Edinburg Collegiate High School students and 100 elected officials, school district, and university administrators were present at the groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday, November 29, 2022 for the state-of-the-art public education facility.
Dr. Mario Salinas, Superintendent, Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District, said UTRGV’s contribution makes higher-education programs a viable option for high school students and can change the trajectory of their lives and for their families.
“One of our priorities at Edinburg CISD is to end the cycle of poverty,” Salinas said. “We know education is the key. We have inclusive admissions – there is no financial barrier to attend. We are excited to provide these expanded opportunities for our students through this collaboration with UTRGV.”
Miguel “Mike” Farías, President, Board of Trustees, Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District, said enrollment at the collegiate high school mirrors the socio-economic background of the other Edinburg campuses.
“Education is the equalizer,” Flores told the ninth- and- 10th-grade students in attendance at the groundbreaking. “It will take hard work, but the return is great.”
Marisol Martínez Ábrego, principal of the new UTRGV Edinburg CISD High School, called the groundbreaking – the first ever for a UTRGV collegiate high school in Hidalgo County – a historic event.
“There is no limit to where our students will go,” she said.
Partnership, plan first announced March 2022
On Wednesday, March 23, 2022, Alamia and his fellow school board trustees held a news conference, along with Hinojosa, Canales, and Bailey to announce the partnership between the Edinburg school district and UTRGV, and the plan for the UTRGV Edinburg CISD Collegiate High School.
“”The leaders at the Edinburg school district know how important it is for students to succeed,” Bailey said. “The access to higher education this partnership with UTRGV will provide is paramount, starting with our youngest students and supporting them through the university. We want to be sure our Valley students are well prepared and have every opportunity to get the jobs they dream of.”
“This partnership is going to change lives and provide opportunities for students in a historic way that has not been possible before. By participating in this program Edinburg CISD students will not only be able to obtain college credit during high school, they will have access to the highest quality educational opportunities because of this extraordinary partnership and collaboration,” said Salinas.
“This UTRGV Edinburg CISD Collegiate High School will provide a rigorous and enriched educational experience to ECISD students in the areas of education, engineering, computer science and Health professions. We want our students to have every opportunity available to them so they can thrive at the University level and then in the workforce when they graduate,” Salinas added.
UT System regents provide other highlights of UTRGV’s roles
Alamia said UT System regents on Thursday, November 17, 2022, unanimously approved UTRGV’s $15.07 million contribution for the UTRGV Edinburg CISD Collegiate High School.
According to the agenda packet for the UT System Board of Regents from its November 17, 2022 public meeting, the following details regarding UTRGV’s participation for the development of the UTRGV Edinburg CISD Collegiate High School include the following highlights:
• Approval of $15,075,000 of funding for UT Rio Grande Valley’s portion of a building to be constructed by the Edinburg Consolidated ISD; and resolution regarding parity debt;
• The Executive Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs recommended approval of this item authorizing funding of $15,075,000 from Revenue Financing System (RFS) bond proceeds for UT Rio Grande Valley to finance capital costs associated with a building to be constructed by the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District on land owned by the institution as approved by the Board of Regents on August 25, 2022;
•• The debt is expected to be repaid with institutional funds;
•• Annual debt service is estimated at $839,000.
Debt service refers to the money that is required to cover the payment of interest and principal on a loan or other debt for a particular time period.
• The institution’s Scorecard Rating of 2.3 at fiscal year-end 2021 is below the maximum threshold of 6.0 and demonstrates that the institution has the financial capacity to satisfy its direct obligations related to parity debt.
• The institution therefore requests that the Board resolve in accordance with Section 5 of the Amended and Restated Master Resolution Establishing The University of Texas System RFS the findings that are stated below:
• Parity debt shall be issued to fund all or a portion of the project, including any costs prior to the issuance of such parity debt.
Parity debt is a debt which has been taken by keeping security, or collateral that is equal to the value of the debt provided.
Sufficient funds will be available to meet the financial obligations of the UT System, including sufficient Pledged Revenues as defined in the RFS Master Resolution to satisfy the Annual Debt Service Requirements of the Financing System, and to meet all financial obligations of the UT System Board of Regents relating to the Financing System.
UT Rio Grande Valley, which is a “Member” as such term is used in the RFS Master Resolution, possesses the financial capacity to satisfy its direct obligation as defined in the Master Resolution relating to the issuance by the UT System Board of Regents of parity debt in an aggregate amount of $15,075,000.
This resolution satisfies the official intent requirements set forth in Section 1.150-2 of the Code of Federal Regulations that evidences the Board’s intention to reimburse project expenditures with bond proceeds.
The future of Texas
Students at the groundbreaking said they are excited and eager to be part of the Early Collegiate High School and, prompted by their principal – “Who are we?!” – responded with a resounding, “We are Collegiate!”
Glory Silva, 15, a student of the recently established collegiate high school, said she hopes to go to law school after graduation.
“Already having my basics done and having a feel for college classes is going to provide a bigger future for me, since I can finish my degree earlier and accomplish more,” she said.
Silva has been enrolled at the school since the school year began in August – attending classes in temporary buildings until the new facility is built.
Jordan Luna, 14, the first Student Council president of the new school, said enrolling before the building was complete just highlights that the first two classes of the new school’s student body have a pioneering spirit.
“We’re making do with portables and temporary labs, but it’s worth it knowing this nice facility is being built for us,” said Luna, who is planning for a career as an aerospace engineer. “We’re all very excited to get that hands-on experience.”
“I feel like this is going to give me a lot of opportunities,” said Nicole Sánchez, 15, a UTRGV Edinburg CISD Collegiate High School student who hopes to study for a career as a gynecologist. “I can’t wait to stand with a ‘Dr.’ by my name and make my mom and grandma proud.”
Lisa Ayala Hettler, Karen Villarreal and Amanda Alaniz 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).