The two-story, 38,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art instructional facility will become an opportunity for public and private four-year universities to offer bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees at TSTC. The TSTC System Board of Regents will join local civic leaders and members of the Harlingen Economic Development Corporation, Harlingen 100 Committee, and Harlingen City Commission for the occasion. Invitations also went out to Texas legislators Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., Rep. Eddie Lucio III and Rep. Tara Rios Ybarra.
“The University Articulation and CareerCenter will build on TSTC’s reputation as a world-class leader in education,” College President Dr. Cesar Maldonado said. “The center will provide students from our area convenient access to these degrees with reduced costs for tuition and travel. Many students who utilize these resources also will save time in earning higher degrees.”
“Everyone who becomes a partner in this endeavor helps South Texas become the ultimate winner.”
The UACC will play an important role in Harlingen’s economic development efforts. “In today’s competitive environment, an educated and skilled workforce is essential in order to create good jobs,” said Armando Elizarde, president of the Harlingen EDC. “Bringing major universities together with the CorporateCollege and TSTC will allow Harlingen to offer companies a more educated and skilled workforce.”
The state opened the Rio GrandeValley campus of Texas State Technical Institute in 1967, two years after the founding of TSTI at Waco. Many of the original buildings at TSTC Harlingen were funded through financial assistance from the city. Cooperation on the UACC project revitalized that relationship, TSTC Harlingen Chief of Staff Adam Hutchison said.
“The EDC and Harlingen 100 Education Committee deserve a lot of credit for bringing university capabilities to TSTC,” he explained. “The UACC will symbolize the fact that civic leaders made an investment in higher education because they realize education drives economic development.
“Partner universities will develop their programs through direct connections with the Harlingen community by offering advanced degrees that meet people’s needs. Students will be able to choose the programs that are the best fit for their schedules and career goals, and they will be enrolled at those universities through the UACC.”
The four-year institutions will have the instructional delivery options of face-to-face classrooms, distance learning telecommunication hookups and online courses. The UACC also will house the Corporate and Community Education Division for adult learning operated by TSTC.
TSTC Harlingen Provost & Vice President of Academic Affairs Pat Hobbs said that articulation agreements in place between TSTC and some universities already give students the capability of working toward seamless transitions to four-year degrees – and beyond – without leaving the city. “This new building will make TSTC a full-service institution of higher education to meet the long-term needs of Harlingen and the surrounding communities,” he said.
Some of the universities that initially expressed interest in the UACC include the University of Texas at Brownsville / TexasSouthmostCollege, the University of Texas-Pan American, Texas A&M University-Kingsville and the University of Texas-San Antonio. Our Lady of the LakeUniversity in San Antonio and UTB already offer upper degree courses delivered at TSTC. Hobbs predicted that up to 10 or 12 universities could become involved with the UACC.
“We are going to promote courses for students that demonstrate the most demand and the universities that propose the best options for students. We do not want to export our youngsters out of the Valley and create a brain drain that could have a negative impact on our region,” he said.
Specific elements designed for the facility include a digital library, computer laboratories, faculty offices (including offices reserved for visiting instructors), and study areas. There will be 13 classrooms with class sizes varying between large lecture halls to small groups. Hutchison said that the UACC will be the first silver certified Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design building specifically designed for education purposes in South Texas. The LEED designation relates to the conservation of electricity and water that leads to lower maintenance costs.
The building site is located directly across Loop 499 from the LearningResourceCenter, roughly in an area bordered by the EarlyCollegeHigh School that’s part of the Harlingen public school district, the HarlingenArts & HeritageMuseum and the TSTCCulturalArtsCenter.
Construction is scheduled for completion in summer 2011 and classes should open in fall semester 2011. “It’s a very aggressive schedule,” Hutchison said, “but all parties involved want this to move forward quickly.”
In 2009, the Harlingen campus added Associate of Science degrees in engineering, math, physics, biology, health professions, nursing preparatory and computer science to its career pathways. Other campuses in the System include Marshall, Waco and West Texas (locations in Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood, Sweetwater). Harlingen’s enrollment for fall semester 2009 exceeded 6,000 and the enrollment total for the System is approximately 15,000.
TSTC Harlingen also confers Associate of Applied Science degrees and Certificates of Completion in more than 30 technical fields in Allied Health Technology, Computer Information Systems and Industrial / Manufacturing Technology. An Academic Core package of 48 credits is available to students who plan for transfer to four-year public universities in Texas.