In his State of the State address, Gov. Rick Perry called on lawmakers to allow South Texas to tap the Permanent University Fund, a substantial pot of money that only certain universities in the University of Texas System and Texas A&M University System are granted access to by the Texas Constitution.
In the UT System, the institutions that currently do not have PUF access are the University of Texas at Brownsville and the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg. In December, UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa announced an ambitious plan to combine the two institutions, allowing lawmakers to grant the new combined university PUF access.
In addition to boosting educational resources in the underserved region, the new source of revenue would be used to support the system's ongoing efforts to establish a South Texas medical school, which Cigarroa envisions as part of the new university.
But in order to move forward, the proposal needs the support of two-thirds of the Legislature. And that's exactly what Perry wants to see happen.
"This area of the state is critical to our state's future, and our investment in the children of South Texas will be returned a thousand-fold," Perry said. "That's why I'm calling for the Legislature to pass, by a two-thirds vote, a bill necessary to give South Texas access to the Permanent University Fund."
This will be welcome news to two of the most prominent proponents of the plan to get PUF access for the region: Juliet Garcia and Robert Nelsen, the presidents of UT-Brownsville and UT-Pan American respectively.
On Wednesday, the presidents plan to lead a contingent of supporters of the new university proposal to Austin for Rio Grande Valley Higher Education Day at the Texas Capitol. The day will feature speeches, musical performances and visits to legislative offices to push a plan, which might be made a bit easier now that it has the governor's blessing.