Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Cárdenas: UTPA looking at developing a higher ed component in McAllen

November 30, 2008 | The Guardian
Joey Gomez and Steve Taylor

EDINBURG, November 30 - University of Texas-Pan American President Blandina “Bambi” Cárdenas is in talks with McAllen leaders about establishing an educational component in the city that would offer masters and doctoral programs.

“The City of McAllen has a very strong interest in having an educational facility. They have been in conversation with us now for some time. We also have a very strong interest in extending our educational services,” Cárdenas told the Guardian, after outlining UTPA’s legislative agenda at the Echo Hotel in Edinburg on Nov. 20.

Cárdenas pointed out that UTPA already provides educational instruction in Starr County and is in talks with South Texas College about providing some classes at STC’s campus in Weslaco. She said expanding UTPA’s educational services could also extend to McAllen.

“We are looking at a teaching facility in McAllen that would teach upper division and master’s classes,” Cárdenas said. She then gave an example of why a presence in McAllen is necessary.

“If you are a classroom teacher in Mission and you get out of school at 4.00 or 4.30 p.m. and you’ve got three kids at home, you are not going to drive all the way from Mission to Edinburg to take a master’s class,” Cárdenas said. “So, we are looking for a site where we can offer a master’s class, probably that is accessible to the expressway.”

There has been some speculation that the City of McAllen might try to get legislation passed during the 81st Legislature that would secure funds for an education facility that a number of higher educational institutions could utilize, for example UTPA, Texas A&M or Texas Tech.

Cárdenas said it would be best if UT administered any new facility in McAllen. “We think it is better for the Valley if we have one strong institution,” Cárdenas said.

At the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Legislative Report Card Dinner, held at the Cimarron Club in Mission on Nov. 11, McAllen Mayor Richard Cortez said a higher education facility in his city was one of his top three legislative agenda items.

“As I look at the people here, what separates a lot of us from poverty? It’s our own education,” Cortez told the audience. “I did not have a silver spoon in my mouth, my parents did not have a lot of education, and I think I am speaking for almost everyone here. We must continue to have access to higher education.”

Cortez elaborated on McAllen’s efforts to build its higher education capacity in an interview with the Guardian after his speech.

“If you look at the core of economic development, it is always identified with human capital. We need to create human capital and by definition it will take care of the economics,” Cortez said.

“A lot of people here are married. It may be difficult for them to move or have access to a masters program or a doctoral program or a professional school if it is not located here locally. We want to give those people who have that talent and capability the opportunity to advance their education right here.”

UTPA is the 10th largest public university in Texas, and the fifth-largest in the UT System. It offers 54 bachelor's degrees programs, 50 master's degrees programs, two doctoral programs, and one cooperative doctoral pharmacy program. A new Ph.D program in rehabilitation counseling is set to begin at UTPA in the fall of 2009.

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