EDINBURG, RGV – The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley could become a billion-dollar enterprise within the next ten years, says its president, Guy Bailey.
Bailey was the keynote speaker for the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Public Affairs Luncheon last Wednesday at the Echo Hotel and Conference Center.
UTRGV has huge plans to progress as a university, Bailey said, with the implementation of new graduate and degree programs, the creation of a football program and research expansion.
“As [the university] stands now–as an enterprise, [it’s] just under 500 million dollars. It’s a huge enterprise,” Bailey said. “If you project out ten years from now … and look at everything that’s going to happen–our practice plan in place and so forth I think it’ll be a billion dollar enterprise. … It’s a tremendous asset to the community. We’re very fortunate to be in a community that loves us and takes good care of us.”
Bailey said UTRGV would like to prioritize student success by enhancing educational opportunities. Alongside the medical school, the university offers a physician’s assistant program, a joint pharmacy program with the University of Texas at Austin, a master’s degree in disaster studies and a master of business administration in Spanish. The university is also looking to establish several other programs and degrees such as physical therapy and a doctorate in optometry.
“We don’t only want to have a medical school, but [a] full range of health science programs and that really will transform the university and the Valley as well,” Bailey said. “Medical education and enhanced health care in the [RGV] are very important to us. We’re a medically under-served region and we’re trying to do something about that.”
The university implemented a four-year guaranteed tuition plan for students. The tuition rate students pay at the time they begin will be the same rate students will pay by the time they graduate. Bailey said if a student takes 15 hours by the time he or she graduates, an entire semester is free.
“If you graduate in three years, that fourth year guarantee carries over to your master’s degree,” Bailey said. “You would pay the graduate tuition … that you would’ve paid four years ago when you started … your bachelor’s degree. What we’re trying to do is to incentivize people to go through very quickly.”
Health Science and Athletics
UTRGV School of Medicine received 2,700 applications for their opening class of 55. A few of the students that were accepted came from universities such as Stanford and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. For the next year, the university has received 4,600 applications.
The university will have nine residency programs. UTRGV has partnered up with hospitals such as McAllen Medical, Valley Baptist and Doctor’s Hospital at Renaissance (DHR) where there are 100 people doing their residencies. Soon, Knapp Medical Center will start partnering with UTRGV.
“People often stay where they do their residency,” Bailey said. “We want to ramp this up to 200 residencies and so when we do that we think we can keep a significant number of those physicians here.”
The university created the South Texas Diabetes and Obesity Institute and began with 22 researchers as well as $8 million dollars, Bailey said. Since then, they’ve grown to 52 researchers and an additional $12 million dollars. Soon, there will be a research facility in McAllen across the street from DHR.
“That will be a huge boom for us. There really isn’t very much research space in the Valley,” Bailey said. “We’re limited in how we can bring about that space. This is an innovative approach and this will be our first research building. It won’t be our last but we’ll do a number of things that we could not do otherwise there.”
Not only is UTRGV expanding its health science field, but athletics as well. Lon Kruger, UTPA’s basketball coach in the 1980s, will have one of his top assistants coach the team this year. Bailey said they’ve also looked at the possibility of having football. He said it’s hard to be in a good athletic conference without one.
“If that happens, I think you’ll all understand what kind of impact that will have,” Bailey said. “It’s a great thing for us and if you’ve been to places with football you understand it’s a galvanizing force for students and for your community as well.”