Posted: Dec 6, 2012 4:32 PM
Updated: Dec 7, 2012 12:58 AM
AUSTIN - The University of Texas System is moving forward with plans to combine the University of Texas-Pan American and the University of Texas in Brownsville.
Both Rio Grande Valley campuses could be linked to a new medical school. The state legislature has yet to approve the medical school.
The UT system regents met Thursday and voted unanimously in favor of the change.
UT officials said it took several months to work out the details of the merger. The plan was kept a secret until Thursday.
"Doesn't it make sense, rather than to have separate campuses, three separate administrations, doesn't it make sense to identify the most efficient, the most productive pathway, to be the best stewards of our resources to lower the tax burden, lower the debt, on our student, family, to get this done?" UT Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa said.
The UT chancellors on Friday will discuss challenges, like the federal health care mandate, money for higher education and student debt.
"Are there challenges? Absolutely, there are challenges. But it wouldn't be so monumental if there weren't challenges," UT Board Chairman Gene Powell said.
"Somebody would have done this before if it weren't so monumental and so tough," Powell said.
Powell, a Rio Grande Valley native, said the expansion is overdue.
"Unfortunately, this is an underserved part of the state. It's one of the fastest growing parts of the state. And it's one of the most underserved parts of the state. Today we have taken a step that nobody has accomplished in the last 100 years in South Texas," Powell said.
It is not yet clear how current faculty, administration and student courses will be affected. UT intends to present a final draft of the plan to state legislators during next year's session.
UT officials also said it will take millions in tax dollars to establish a medical school in the Valley.
A two-thirds majority vote among state lawmakers is needed to make Thursday's announcement a reality.
If the medical school is approved, the campus would become part of the new, expanded university. The new university campuses would include UTPA, UTB and the Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen. The UT system would construct an administration building in McAllen.