AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The University of Texas would bring a new medical school to the border under a measure approved Wednesday by the Texas Senate.
In a 30-1 vote, lawmakers advanced a bill to combine campuses in Edinburg and Brownsville with a Harlingen health center currently operated by the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio. The Texas House is expected to consider the proposal next week.
"Today is a historic day for the Rio Grande Valley," said Senator Eddie Lucio, a Democrat from Brownsville.
UT regents already have pledged $100 million to the project. Perhaps most importantly, the new university would gain access to the state's Permanent University Fund, the endowment that manages billions of dollars to support higher education.
Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, said the plan could transform the impoverished region, where doctors are in short supply.
"Education gives you the power to succeed," Hinojosa said.
The new university is projected to enroll 28,000 students, employ 7,000 people and generate $11 million in research expenditures.
Lucio said the university will foster new opportunities for commerce and scientific research around the nearby ports. Characterizing the project as a form of reparations, he heralded a "once in a lifetime" opportunity to build on the region's cultural heritage.
"Our demographics already offer a preview of what the nation's demographics will look like in a generation," he said. "Through our action today, we begin to correct generations of inequity."