Harlingen school district partners with UTRGV

HARLINGEN — Want to be a doctor?

An engineer?

How about a teacher?

Well, if you’re in high school, you can start working on your degrees while attending Early College High School.

The Harlingen school board recently signed a partnership with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley that allows ECHS students to take college courses with professors from UTRGV.

ECHS students have been taking college courses across the street at Texas State Technical College. Those courses have allowed them to graduate from high school with a two-year associate’s degree.

Under the new partnership, students can earn two years worth of college credit toward a bachelor’s degree from UTRGV.

“They will enter UTRGV as sophomores or juniors,” said Guy Bailey, president of UTRGV, after signing the partnership at last week’s school board meeting.

“There are a lot of details to be worked out,” Bailey said. “It’s really just a matter of the nuts and bolts.”

UTRGV will begin offering those courses to ECHS students in Fall 2018. Professors will present coursework on the ECHS campus or at the University Center at TSTC.

A few courses will be offered at UTRGV facilities in Brownsville or Edinburg. The district will provide transportation.

The change has obvious benefits, said George McShan, school board member. He discussed the three disciplines which ECHS will be able to pursue.

“The academic corps allows you to go on to medical school,” he said. “Let’s say you want to major in biology or pre-med, or in the medical school, or you want to get into physical therapy. You can do that.”

The pre-engineering coursework, which he said is a STEM program, could be an extension of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) studies being initiated at the middle school level.

“When they go from middle school they’ll go to Early College,” McShan said. “With Early College they’ll continue on with their STEM to UTRGV to get a bachelor’s degree. That’s a first.”

Students from throughout the Valley will be allowed to study at ECHS.