|McALLEN, August 27 - If Hidalgo and Starr counties voters say “no” to its $159 million bond and maintenance election in November, South Texas College will be forced to limit enrollment and deny access to thousands of students.
This grim picture is painted in a “Frequently Asked Question and Answer” booklet produced by STC to help explain the bond issue. In answer to the question, “What happens if the election fails,” STC states:
“STC will be forced to limit enrollment and deny access to thousands of students throughout Hidalgo and Starr counties. Students will be denied the opportunity to attend college as well as the opportunity to prepare for high-skill and high-wage jobs in the community. The college will have to turn away students as the (Rio Grande) Valley grows and demand for higher education continues to increase.”
To reiterate the point about demand growing, STC cites data from the master planning firm of Freese and Nichols. Current STC student enrollment has already exceeded the college’s physical capacity with its current buildings, Freese and Nichols state.
“Currently, STC operates with only 66 percent of the facilities required to accommodate the current enrollment. Currently, 45 portable buildings with two classrooms in each portable are located on the five College campuses. The number of portables will need to double to accommodate the anticipated enrollment expected by 2020.”
The STC election takes place on Election Day, Nov. 5, with early voting running between Oc. 21 and Nov. 1. Voters in Hidalgo and Starr counties are being asked to vote on two propositions.
Proposition No. 1 asks voters if they support the issuance of $159,028,940 million in 20-year general obligation bonds to fund the construction and equipping of new classrooms, science and health care training labs, technical training facilities and student support services at all the College’s campuses. A tax rate increase of one-half cent will be necessary to fund the general obligation bonds for the construction of equipping of new facilities.
Proposition No. 2 asks voters if they support a three-cent increase in the annual tax rate to pay for the increased maintenance and operation costs associated with the operation of the new facilities, growth in student enrollment, new faculty, and expanded programs.
While one of the questions focuses on the negative, what happens if the bond election is voted down, another looks at the positive. The question is posed, “How will the community benefit from the expansion of STC?” Here is the response:
“Expanding STC will contribute to the economic growth and development of the region. Education is the ‘great social and economic equalizer’ and access to quality affordable higher education is crucial. There is a direct relationship among the level of education, potential salaries, and the quality of life of a community’s residents. A skilled workforce is the fuel that will continue to drive the Valley’s economic growth.
“The bond issue will provide the classrooms, teaching labs, new programs, and technical training facilities so that South Texas College may continue to prepare students for direct entry into the workforce and for transfer to the university. South Texas College is asking the community to invest in the college so students and their future families may be prepared to fully participate as productive and contributing taxpayers with an increased quality of life.”
Another question in the booklet asks why STC will continue to grow so rapidly. The answer is it is responding to the Valley’s growth.
“STC serves Hidalgo and Starr counties which have grown by almost 200,000 people during the last decade. Furthermore, the Texas State Data Center at A&M University predicts the two counties will grow an additional 200,000 people in the next ten years. The Data Center projects a 78.3 percent increase in the Valley population over the next 25 years. The current enrollment projections for STC are based on these projections.”
Click here to read all 57 questions and answers in the new STC booklet.
Editor’s Note: Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part series the Guardian is running this week on South Texas College’s upcoming $159 million bond and maintenance election. Click here to read Part One.