South Texas ISD, UTRGV ink deal to expand dual enrollment opportunities

University of Texas Rio Grande Valley President Guy Bailey, left, and South Texas ISD Superintendent Tony Lara sign a poster commemorating a new partnership between the schools as Doug Buchanan, STISD Board President, awaits his turn to sign, Monday, in Mercedes. (Courtesy photo)

MERCEDES — South Texas Independent School District and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley held a signing ceremony Monday morning to announce a new partnership between the two entities.

UTRGV President Guy Bailey, South Texas ISD Superintendent Marco Antonio Lara Jr. and Board President Douglas Buchanan participated in Monday’s event which was held at South Texas ISD’s Biblioteca Las Américas in Mercedes.

The partnership will expand dual enrollment opportunities for South Texas ISD students who wish to pursue their education with UTRGV.

Buchanan said the partnership has been something that had been in the works since the school district’s inception.

“It’s been a dream, if you will, to try to relay to all the students in the Rio Grande Valley instead of just pockets of kids here and there — to give all students the opportunity to receive college courses and then being able to apply that to a degree plan as they enter college,” Buchanan said.

Most schools offer some form of dual enrollment which allows students the opportunity to leave high school with as many as 60 college credit hours. Buchanan said this new partnership with UTRGV will allow students from South Texas ISD to be a part of a curriculum that meets the criteria needed for those college credits to transfer directly to UTRGV.

“They will have not only 60 hours — two years of college credit — they will start (college) as a junior, but they will be working directly into their degree plan and not have skipped a beat without having to make up courses that weren’t covered in their associates degree,” Buchanan said.

“You’re looking at $12,000 a year minimum for tuition at a four-year university,” he continued. “Of course, it goes up exponentially, but that’s $12,000 that a family does not have to put forth in sending their child or our student to college. It makes college that much more — not affordable, but attainable. I think it’s just a tremendous partnership that I think the students of the Rio Grande Valley are going to be able to benefit from.”

The South Texas ISD superintendent praised Bailey and UTRGV’s vision in bringing the partnership to fruition for the district’s four campuses.

“(Bailey) made mention that we’re very similar,” Lara said. “UTRGV spans the Valley and has facilities in Brownsville, Edinburg, Weslaco, and I think as far as Rio Grande City. South Texas ISD also spans a three-county area; Willacy, Hidalgo and Cameron County. We’ve got schools in Edinburg, Mercedes, San Benito and Olmito. It just kind of made sense for us to partner and work together to provide our students the opportunity to gain the college experience with UTRGV.”