By JOE BOCANEGRA
Special to the NEWS
BROWNSVILLE – Friday, the University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa and the UT System Board of Regents Chairman Gene Powell, along with UT Brownsville President Juliet V. García, held a town hall meeting to discuss the planned merger of UT-Pan American in Edinburg, UTB, and the Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC) in Harlingen with a single school of medicine.
The merger, which received unanimous approval Thursday with the UT System Board of Regents, is planned to help with the lack of medical facilities in the Valley.
“This is a bold plan that, if accomplished, will put our Rio Grande Valley campuses on equal footing with other UT institutions,” Powell stated in a press release. “It creates incredible opportunities to capitalize on the bicultural heritage of the Rio Grande Valley and build a university for the Americas.”
During the presentation on Friday, Cigarroa showed the benefits of the merger, many of which will put them on equal par with the fellow colleges in Austin and North Texas, including a monetary endowment of $70.5 million. Also included was an announcement that the board allocated $100 million, spread over 10 years, to help with the development of the planned school. According to the Assistant Director of Public Affairs Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, the money will be used to help fund for faculty and equipment.
“It will be used for anything we might and will need,” Caputo said after the presentation.
Also invited to the meeting was State Representative Eddie Lucio, Jr., who welcomed the merger.
“I want to sincerely thank Chancellor Cigarroa, his staff, UT Board of Regents Chairman Gene Powell, and the board for all their hard work. We depend on people of vision to make this happen,” he said. “Thankfully there are several next to me,” referring to Cigarroa and Powell.
The next step, according to Cigarroa, is for the House to have a two-thirds vote to make it possible.
“I want you to spread the word,” he said as a closing speech. “I want you to speak to your representatives and tell them to approve the measure.”
Jennifer Espinales, a 20-year-old college junior majoring in Biology at UTB, thinks that the plan is inspirational.
“It’s great for the region’s economic growth,” she said after the meeting. “It will be a model for the younger generation. I am very hopeful that this will happen.”
Late Friday, UTB issued a statement in which the following highlights what officials there deemed “the face of the new university.” According to the statement, the new school will consist of more than 27,000 students, over 1,490 faculty and over 3,780 staff members. Also, the average salary for jobs at the university would be $65,000; total restricted research expenditures will be at $11.4 million, an endowment is estimated at $70.5 million, an operating budget of $419 million will be allocated, and total net assets are expected to be worth $540 million, according to the release.
Read this story in the Dec. 9 edition of the San Benito News, or subscribe to our E-Edition by clicking here.