MCALLEN & EDINBURG, Texas – The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley announced partnerships with McAllen ISD and Edinburg CISD on Wednesday to found collegiate high schools in the cities. 

In two separate ceremonies held in McAllen and Edinburg, memorandums of understanding (MOUs) were signed by the parties which hope to provide students in the districts with the opportunity to receive up to 60 college credits while attending these campuses.

At the first event, McAllen ISD Superintendent J.A. Gonzalez, McAllen ISD School Board of Trustees President Sam Saldivar Jr., and UTRGV President Guy Bailey spoke about the agreement and what it will mean for area.

“This high school will provide dynamic educational opportunities that we think will enrich the students’ academic lives, inspire their futures and really get them on the fast-track to success,” Bailey said.

As with UTRGV Harlingen Collegiate High School, the schools will offer tracks in the high-demand fields of health care, computer science, engineering, and education from which students will choose. Upon completion of their academic courses, students will have accumulated enough hours to enter college as juniors with much of their core coursework behind them.

“This is historic because what this is is every student who goes to that high school will be a UTRGV student in a degree program working toward a degree,” said Bailey.

McAllen’s collegiate high school will be located within UTRGV’s planned medical campus on Pecan Boulevard between Jackson and McColl roads. Officials say that around eight of the 38 acres of land will be set aside for the state-of-the-art facility with an estimated price tag of $26 million. The cost will be split between UTRGV and McAllen ISD. 

Construction is expected to be completed by the fall of 2023 with the inception of the first cohort, but recruitment will begin this spring. Each class will have about 125 students for an eventual total of 500 spots as the initial classes move up. Gonzalez says that the application process will be very competitive for students, but the opportunity to receive up to 60 hours of college credit tuition-free is unmatched.

“We do have competition. It’s a friendly competition. So, now we’re going to have an opportunity to give them a choice,” said Gonzalez. “… I think that a lot of kids that are attending South Texas [ISD] or attending IDEA [Public Schools] or attending districts around us are going to choose to come here because of that program, so we’re excited about that.”

In Edinburg, the signing of the MOU followed a unanimous vote by the school district’s board of trustees, where the proposal was presented ceremoniously before members and approved. Edinburg ISD Superintendent Mario H. Salinas and Edinburg C.I.S.D. School Board of Trustees President Dominga “Minga” Vela led the majority of the discussion and presentation, with Bailey speaking briefly about the impact of the school after the official adjournment of the board. 

“Education has been at the heart of everything that Edinburg has done since its founding,” said Bailey. “…Think about this, in the space of less than 20 years – the founding of a city, the founding of a school, the  founding of a college. Think about that. An interest in education, a desire for education, a value for education has always been here. And, what we’re doing today is taking another step in building and cementing a relationship that’s really been here since the beginning.”

Edinburg’s collegiate high school will be located at the corner of Freddy Gonzalez Drive and South Expressway 281 with a capacity for 800 to 900 students. The estimated cost is between $23 and $26 million. Like McAllen, Edinburg projects that the building will be completed by the fall of 2023. However, Edinburg plans to form and enroll their first two cohorts by September of this year as construction is underway. The hope is to have a class of freshman, sophomores and juniors once the school opens. Recruitment efforts will begin in May. 

Vela and Salinas both emphasized that the application process is open to all students, not just the highest academic achievers, and that 10 percent of the available spots will be saved for interested students outside of the district. They say this is another avenue the district is taking to close the achievement gap for their students and open more doors.

“We wanted to go a little bit beyond the high school. We do have Pre-AP [Advanced Placement]. We have dual credit. But, now we wanted to enhance that,” said Vela. “…We have great high schools. We have a great career and technical program, too. But, this is an extra opportunity for all our students.”

Bailey says the signing of these MOUs show a huge commitment to the future of the Valley and its greatest export – human capitol. 

“What we are looking for are opportunities that will help our students move forward in a timely manner, get degrees which will help them go into professions that are really needed in the Valley and stay here and be part of our workforce,” said Bailey. “…We have great kids, we have great human capitol here and we think this is a huge step toward doing that.”

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