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Summary: SB 24 permits the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System to create, establish, and maintain a medical school in the Rio Grande Valley. The bill gives the Board the authority to abolish the University of Texas at Pan American (UTPA) and the University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB) at an appointed time after the medical school begins operations. The new medical school will be able to include programs provided through UTPA and UTB but will not be required to carry all the degree plans currently offered by those universities. Also, the new institution will serve as the medical school for The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, including facilities and operations from the Rio Grande Health Center.
SB 24 creates an Advisory Group to the Board of Regents to develop the medical school's implementation. The Board will dissolve the Advisory Group after it has fulfilled its purpose. If passed by two-thirds of the membership of both houses, SB 24 will allow the South Texas medical school to be a part of the Permanent University Fund, in which UTPA and UTB are not able to participate.
SB 24 will create a Center for Border Economic and Enterprise Development (CBEED) to establish an economic development plan and research for the Texas-Mexico border. Also, the bill established the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science (TAMS) to equip high school juniors and seniors who are pursuing math and science skill sets. The Academy will provide these students with challenging university-level coursework. The Academy may consider admitting exceptionally skilled students below the junior grade in high school. Funding for the Academy will come from the foundation school fund, treated like a school district.
Analysis: Earlier this session we supported the identical House version of this bill, HB 1000. While this legislation does not fit neatly into our five Liberty Principle categories, it is clear that SB 24 fits within the legitimate scope of state government as it relates to administering the state university system. Our only concern is that the legislation does not specifically require the new university to maintain degree programs for students enrolled at UTPA and UTB at the time those universities are abolished. The legislation requires the new university to transfer those students in and honor their credits, but not to offer them the same degree program on which they started. We are confident that while the legislation is permissive on this point, the Board of Regents will make adequate consideration of the needs of students transferring in from the abolished universities.