Board rejects idea to connect schools

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The governing board of Texas Southmost College in Brownsville rejected a proposal for a new operating agreement with the University of Texas at Brownsville on Thursday that critics said would have ceded too much local control to the UT System.

The proposed operating agreement would have combined the four-year UT System campus and the neighboring community college into one legal entity governed by the UT System Board of Regents. Rather, the board moved to offer a counterproposal: Create a new entity called UTB/TSC but continue local oversight.

Discussions of the operating agreement, which the UT System recently proposed, comes in the middle of a dispute between the two colleges over $10 million that UTB owes in rent for the use of TSC buildings.

“Without the UT System, we wouldn’t be here today,” said TSC board trustee René Torres.

“While TSC collects local taxes, we, the Texas Board of Trustees, should have a right in determining the future of the Texas Southmost College.”

UT-Brownsville and Texas Southmost have shared a campus since 1991, where students can transition from taking community college courses to entering a four-year degree plan with ease. Juliet Garcia, president of UT-Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, said over the years UTB brought $100 million in state funds to the campus that also serves TSC community college students and that the state dollars outweigh the debt owed.

“All buildings on campus are used by all students, so who owed who and how much rent?” she said in a statement. “Rent owed was only $10 million, but dollars received by UTB was over $100 million.”

Garcia said combining the university and the community college into a single legal entity would reduce the paperwork for federal financial aid and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

On Wednesday, several TSC trustees took to the Brownsville Herald to speak about the agreement.

TSC trustee Juan Mendez said additional state funding resulting from the new agreement is essential for the college, but the colleges should have already been fully funded.

“What has been pitched as another benefit to TSC is that we would have a fully funded UT System school,” Mendez said in a statement to the Herald. “Unless I’m missing something, we have a four-year university here already named UTB.”