HARLINGEN, Texas – Harlingen leaders are in talks with Texas Southmost College about having the college bring their courses and programs to the city.

The leaders want a comprehensive community college like all the other big cities in the Rio Grande Valley have. The talks could lead the college to offer its courses and programs on Harlingen CISD campuses or in the mall.

The subject came up at a recent “Business Before Breakfast” event hosted by the Greater Chamber of Harlingen. The keynote speaker was Dr. Jesús Roberto Rodríguez, the TSC president.

In a Q&A session at the end of Rodríguez’s power point presentation, education consultant and former Harlingen CISD board trustee George McShan posed a question to Rodríguez.

“We can appreciate your presentation,” McShan said. “The one thing that we know is that communities like San Antonio, Austin, Houston, all the big cities, they have comprehensive community communities. The one thing we have in the Rio Grande Valley, we have a comprehensive community college (South Texas College) in Hidalgo and Starr counties. We do not have a comprehensive community college here in Harlingen. It stops at San Benito. We talk about collaboration. We talk about investment. What could Texas Southmost do to strengthen what you might say is this collaborative partnership with city hall?

Rodríguez responded by explaining what TSC can and cannot currently do in Harlingen. And he offered a couple of options, should Harlingen leaders want to pursue a collaboration with the college.

“Good question,” Rodríguez told McShan. “By state statute, Texas Southmost College’s service area is all of Cameron and Willacy counties. The state has said that’s your service area, all of Cameron and Willacy counties. However, Texas Southmost College is a taxing entity. So we charge a tax. Harlingen is not part of that tax. I think we’re charging $0.114 for $100 in valuation. Again, you’ve heard it: the board of trustees has reduced the tax rate twice already, tuition three times. Our philosophy is we’re not going to put it on the back of the taxpayers, on the back of our students. We’re going to run a good shop and that’s what we have been doing. 

“With that said, by law we are limited on how much investment we can do here. We can do a lot within our taxing district. Coming to Harlingen, I’m not able to build. However, if the Harlingen community says, I would like to have your comprehensive community college here, there’s an ROI (return on investment) there, we can work with your economic development organization and they can say, hey, here’s a facility. Like, I come into the high school, right, this makes it feasible. If I can find a place in Harlingen and say, look, here’s the place and it’s something that we need to explore more… I know we are in conversations about that. 

“But, if you can find a place for me at the mall and say, hey, set up shop here and the economic development corporation can infuse a little bit of money to retrofit it, to make a classroom, to make a lab, I am sure… my board is here, I know they’re committed. We’ll say, okay, we’ll put in the equipment, we’ll put in the faculty, we will cover the overhead. But I need a place that I can lease. I can lease but I cannot build. That’s one option. The second option is if the City of Harlingen decides to become part of our taxing district. Those are the two options, and it is something for the community to consider.”

Rodríguez also spoke about TSC having a presence in Harlingen during his power point presentation. He gave a shoutout to Dr. Alicia Noyola, superintendent of Harlingen CISD. Noyola was in the audience. He said talks have already begun on having TSC offer classes and programs in the school district’s classrooms.

“So, we’re working with the ISDs and again, Dr. Noyola, muchísimas gracias,” Rodríguez said.

“We’re trying to find a place in Harlingen so we can set up our shop. Right now with the leadership of the board of trustees and superintendent, we’re trying to use their high schools after school. To provide classes in the evenings, maybe at the weekends.”

Rodríguez added: “Those classrooms are pretty empty in the evening. So, we’re trying to leverage resources, work collaboratively, introduce that. So that’s kind of where we’re at. That’s the message you’re going to start hearing more of: Texas Southmost College here in Harlingen.”

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