|EDINBURG, March 4 - University of Texas-Pan American President Robert Nelsen says the Rio Grande Valley has, thankfully, now developed a college-ready culture.
However, he said that culture is now under attack due to a new education law that passed during the last legislative session that will kick-in this Fall.
“House Bill 5 does some very good things. It limits the number of tests we have. We have moved from 15 to five tests. That is good. It establishes the technical track and there are students who need the technical track,” Nelsen told the Guardian.
“But, HB 5 does not require Algebra 2. The parents have to op-in to get their children into a college-ready track. I am very concerned that there will be a lot of kids in the Valley who do not opt-in to that track; that parents do not know about that track. So, when it comes time to apply for college, the answer is no.”
Nelsen added: “The mother and father have to sign their child into the college-ready track. That is not the normal track anymore. You have to sign and say, yes, I want my child to be in that track. How many kids are going to go home and say, Mom, I want take Algebra 2?
“That is my biggest worry. House Bill 5 also requires every high education institution to ally with the ISDs to try to create some applied math courses and other courses. We are just going to have to work much closer with the parents.”
Nelsen made his remarks before speaking at South Texas College’s Ninth Annual Summit on College and Career Readiness, held at Region One Education Service Center in Edinburg on Tuesday. Asked if there has been much media coverage on the impact of HB 5, Nelsen said there is a great article in the Texas Tribune today. The article was written by Aamena Ahmed. Ahmed wrote: “If students intend to continue on to a public four-year university after high school, they will likely still need to take algebra II to have the widest range of higher education choices. The state’s two largest public university systems, the University of Texas and Texas A&M University, said they will continue to require the course for admission.”
(Click here to read the Texas Tribune story.)
Nelsen spoke about his concerns with the impact of HB 5 in a brief speech at the STC Summit.
“I am so concerned about House Bill 5 and its effects on the Valley and what will happen. I am so worried about kids not taking the courses and being college ready,” Nelsen said, addressing educators in the public school system. “You are on the defense lines. You are the people who will tell the parents to sign up for college ready courses. You are the people who make sure that they make it to the next step.”
Nelsen also praised STC, saying UTPA and STC have a great partnership. And, on a lighter note, Nelsen also spoke briefly about the Valley’s new university, UTRGV.
“How many of you are mad at me for changing the name of Pan-Am?” Nelsen asked. Not many hands went up. “Why did we do that? For $196 million,” Nelsen said, to big cheers. Region 1 is right next door to UTPA. He told those in the audience to look out for the new medical school building and the new science building. “For $196 million we can have a new name and we can take care of our kids.”