MCALLEN, RGV – Rick Anderson, executive vice president for finance and administration for UT-Rio Grande Valley, says five major construction projects underway at UTRGV are worth about $246 million.
Anderson gave a report to McAllen Economic Development Corporation recently.
“We have five major projects, two at Edinburg, two at Brownsville, and our DHR research facility in McAllen that are underway now. It is about $246 million worth of construction in those five buildings, plus SpaceX and a few other projects sprinkled in here and there,” Anderson said.
Anderson has been at UTRGV for about a year now. His predecessor, Marty Baylor, retired in April 2016. Anderson previously served as vice president for administration and treasurer at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. It was his first presentation to the MEDC board of directors.
“It was a difficult budget year for all of higher education and UTRGV was probably affected a little bit more than others because of the number of special line items we have,” Anderson told the McAllen EDC board of directors.
“Most of the South Texas border schools, for a variety of reasons, lawsuits and things like that, probably have a higher percentage of special line items relative to their whole state appropriation so we were affected a little bit more.”
Anderson said the Legislature also cut funding for the UTRGV School of Medicine.
“That took a relatively significant hair cut from about $31 million a year to about $25 million a year for the medical school. The good thing is our local delegation fought really hard in terms of getting an appropriate amount of funding to keep the medical school going.”
The UTRGV School of Medicine is about to start its second year starting this fall. UTRGV is starting its third year this fall. “So, we are kind of a start-up, brand new operation when you combine all the campuses,” Anderson said.
Anderson said UTRGV’s campus budget is about a half billion-dollar budget right now. He said the university is just shy of 30,000 students and expects to grow at a rate of 1,000 to 2,000 students a year over the next five to seven years.
“We need to accommodate and develop the programs, including being less reliant of special line items and more reliant on formula funding,” Anderson said. “The mix and complexity of those programs, we want those to grow primarily on the graduate, professional side, as well as on the under-graduate side, including more complex programs like engineering and healthcare.”
Anderson said UTRGV is also committed to raising the overall quality of incoming students.
“Our retention rates have significantly improved over the last few years, in terms of freshmen and sophomore retention rates and I think our incoming class this year, 30 percent of our students coming in to UTRGV are in the top 10 percent of their high schools.”
Asked if the state funding cuts had negatively impacted the new STARGATE facility UTRGV is building in association with SpaceX, Anderson said no.
“I understand they got all state match fees. All the documentation has been turned in and the project is nearing completion,” Anderson said.
The $1.8 million STARGATE Technology Center is a 15,000 square-foot facility under construction along Highway 4, adjacent to Boca Chica Beach, approximately 25 miles east of Brownsville.
Funded by a U.S. Economic Development Administration grant, the STARGATE Technology Center will allow research and collaboration on a variety of projects and will serve as a base for radio frequency laboratories, classrooms, business incubator offices and flexible lab and research space near the SpaceX Commercial Launch Facility.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above story, taken in March 2016, shows Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez, UT-Rio Grande Valley President Guy Bailey, and state Sen. Eddie Lucio signing their names on a beam that was used in the construction of a $54 million Academic Building at UTRGV. The 102,551-square-foot building will consist of two structures, each three stories, and will support general academics, science teaching labs, music instruction and recitals, and provide flexible spaces for study and student collaboration.