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The following article was published in the Brownsville Herald today as part of a series that ran this week.

Part II Building a New Model

October 19, 2010

In the first part of this series we recounted the history of the community’s long journey towards its original goal: a four-year college; and how in 1991 the two schools entered into the current partnership agreement to offer the combined mission of a community college and a university. That successful design led to a dramatic increase of students, programs, classes and services, but with success came problems of managing the growth and complexity.

First, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, that accredits higher educational institutions to offer degrees, requires that there be only one governing board. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has had difficulty interpreting reports that come from two institutions that report separately but function as part of a united pair. The federal government has had difficulty reconciling financial aid reports accounting for UTB/TSC students, who are technically in two different institutions.

Another conflict that has arisen is a dispute over rents. The original agreement relied upon a State formula for calculating rents due to TSC from UTB, but limited the amount owed to what the State actually funded, not the full amount. The design was also based upon the provision that TSC would provide all the buildings and land. But over the years, local legislators have helped leverage state dollars through UTB resulting in over $100 million coming to our campus. All buildings on campus are used by all students, so who owed who and how much rent? Rent owed was only $10 million; but dollars received by UTB was over $100 million.

By 2007 it was becoming clear that the original design had exhausted its capacity to support the growing needs and opportunities of the region.

Fifteen months ago both the TSC Trustees and the University of Texas System Regents authorized the formation of a workgroup to examine the problems. While the original assignment was to work out a settlement over the unfunded rent, the workgroup realized that the bigger problem was devising a more predictable and sustainable funding stream needed for future operations. After a year of labor, the workgroup created a new design rooted in the original mission of the partnership but now recalibrated to the new environment of state and federal requirements and funding opportunities. In February the TSC Board invited a community advisory committee to three public work sessions. These discussions and many months of input from Trustees continued to recalibrate new model.

By March of this year, a resolution was passed by both the TSC Trustees and the UT System Regents affirming support for the new model.

Representing the state-of-the-art in thinking and design in higher education, the new model:

  • Forms a new, single university whose unique mission is a blend of community college and university philosophy, programs and community outreach.
  • Maintains the same single, high capacity managing partner - the UT System Board of Regents, as required for accreditation.
  • Simplifies the structure for increased state funding, far exceeding rent amounts.
  • Solves the confusion of dual reporting and provides for a more transparent view of UTB/TSC’s performance.
  • Enhances UT System’s commitment to the core values of open admissions, affordability, community college programs and locally-focused mission.
  • Provides a clear method for community input into program offerings.
  • Lowers tuition and fees to community college pricing levels for certificate and Associate of Applied Science programs.
  • Solves the problems of ownership, lease, use, maintenance, and construction of land and facilities by providing that both UTB and TSC transfer assets to the new single entity, with the provision that those assets would be returned if the partnership dissolved.
  • Clarifies the respective roles of the UT System Regents and the TSC Trustees.
  • Preserves TSC’s statutory powers, including the exclusive control of the district tax rate.
  • Guarantees trustee involvement in policy development through several Operating Committees.

Under the new agreement, no changes may be made to the following without the majority approval of the TSC Board:

  • Sale, lease or disposition of TSC Contributed Assets
  • Discontinue or materially diminish the community college and occupational/technical programs in a way that would prevent the achievement of the Partnership mission
  • Materially impair open access by non-traditional students
  • Amend the provisions of the Agreement
  • Terminate the Partnership

As president of UTB TSC, I believe that the new model is essential for our continued progress. I believe that the old partnership model simply will not work to meet the needs and opportunities for our community and should not continue.

October 21 will be the 19th TSC Board meeting on the new agreement. The new model design has been derived from all this work and is clearly our best option. It is the right answer.

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