Senate committee approves consolidated UT System school, moves to full Senate

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A bill to consolidate UT System institutions in the Rio Grande Valley will go before the Texas Senate after a committee unanimously approved it Wednesday.

The bill, authored by state Sens. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville; Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo; and Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, would combine UT-Brownsville, UT-Pan American and the Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen into one institution.

"Today is an important first step in ensuring the Valley receives its first Tier One research university," Lucio said in a statement.

The bill would give the consolidated institution access to the Permanent University Fund, a $1.3 billion state endowment that allocates money to institutions in the UT and Texas A&M systems. The Regional Academic Health Center would become a medical school under the proposal.

Currently, UT-Brownsville and UT-Pan American are the only UT System institutions that do not receive money from the fund.

The Legislature must approve the new university by a two-thirds vote in both houses for the institution to gain access to the fund.

The UT System is currently committing $100 million over 10 years for the prospective medical school and will seek $10 million in annual state funds for the consolidation.