The Brownsville City Commission on Tuesday approved contributing $12,500 to the UT Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa Scholarship Endowment that will provide scholarships to students entering the proposed medical school in the Rio Grande Valley.
The decision to contribute to the endowment was made at a special meeting of the Brownsville City Commission on Tuesday. The vote was unanimous by all attending the meeting. District 3 Commission Melissa Zamora was not present.
Mayor Tony Martinez said the University of Texas System Board of Regents had wanted to give Cigarroa a pay raise. The chancellor declined the pay increase, however, and requested the funding go to scholarships for students attending the new university that will be established in the Valley, the mayor said.
“When it came down to their last meeting, the Board of Regents, they authorized a $50,000 fund to be started and then the mayors got together, not myself because I wasn’t around at the time, and decided that we would show the solidarity by each city contributing $12,500 matching the funds of the University of Texas,” Martinez said.
Brownsville City Manager Charlie Cabler said the endowment will begin at $100,000, with $50,000 coming from the funding authorized by the UT Board of Regents. The remaining $50,000 is to be divided between the cities of Brownsville, Edinburg, Harlingen and McAllen.
The City Commission’s decision comes about a week after Cigarroa announced the merger between the University of Texas at Brownsville, the University of Texas-Pan American and the Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen to form an emerging research university that would include the South Texas School of Medicine.
The proposed new university would have a combined total enrollment of 28,000, Cigarroa said. The plan is to enhance education while at the same time improving health care in the Valley. In addition, the school would offer internships and residencies for students planning to attend the future medical school.
The new university campus would be spread across Cameron and Hidalgo counties, with campuses in Brownsville, Edinburg and Harlingen, and an administrative office in McAllen.
The UT Board of Regents approved the merger on Thursday and also agreed to spend $100 million during 10 years to transition the RAHC into a full medical school as part of the new university.
Before the new university can be formed it needs to be approved by two-thirds of the Texas Legislature. The new university would qualify to receive funding from the Permanent University Fund, which is unavailable to UTB and UTPA, officials said.