Where did our community college go?

Published Brownsville Herald June 7, 2010

Like most retirees my income has not increased and my cost of living continues to increase especially taxes. More so when I feel the community is being badly mistreated by the taxing authority. We are being taxed by Texas Southmost Community College and it exists only in name. The University has another Campus that unlike any of the others we must pay for.
I recently got my new property tax statement, my home was appraised at a value ten percent higher than last year and the Texas Southmost College tax rate is now $0.161924.
In these difficult times find it problematic to financially support a nonexistent entity and any politician that continues to maintain, what appears to me, to be a fraud on the community. Especially, when you consider that it is where a large percentage of its members cannot afford the university rates currently in force.
Perhaps, a few of you will remember a column I wrote, that appeared in September of 2004. It was conceived in response to a proposed bond issue and a presentation that the University and Texas – Southmost College officials provided at St. Marys Church. I went there with preconceived notions that were dispelled to some extent by Dr. Tony Zavaleta’s discussion and forced me to rethink my position.
I wrote “The event began with imposing presence that transmitted the sense that you are in good hands here and we are going to be straight with you.”
It now seems that they were not straight with us.
University President Garcia, made the case that these were the needs and this is what it will cost; we still need the things that we described in the earlier proposal but we heard your concern over the costs and went back to work. We saw the results of a lot of “hand wringing” in the new refined proposal and a lower estimated tax rate increase of 3.8 cents per hundred dollars of valuation. It was also said that a hard look at the budget resulted in the tax rate being reduced from .1314 to .1280 or about 3/100 of a cent per $100 of evaluation. While it sounds small, it translates into real money when one considers the total value of property being taxed.
It seems they just flimflammed us!
In 2006, I was shocked and surprised at the tax increases that befell me; when the tax collected for Texas Southmost had gone up 50% in two years. The tax rate went up 1/3 from 2004 to 2005 from a rate of $0.128782 per $100 to $0.162772 per $100.00. Then for the 2006 year the rate dropped slightly to $0.161089 per $100, but my home was appraised even higher which still resulted in an additional increase in my tax of about 6%. What ever happened to the promises made of a tax rate of $0.1280.
According to The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board web site, the state wide average cost for a student taking a full load of 15 semester hours is approximately $1,840.
A listing of Public Community Colleges for Texas Southmost College District exists, not Texas Southmost College and University of Texas Brownsville. The related listing specifies that a schedule of 15 semester hours would cost an astronomical $5,498 in tuition and fees, whether the student resides in the district or not. There are a number of regular universities in Texas with tuition and fees between $5000 and $5,500.
It seems that something is wrong with charging University prices at a community college, where the community itself struggles to put food in the mouths of their families.
Our taxes are not paying for our students who need the help but to support those from other communities to attend a university.
My experience with community colleges in other parts of the country, have been that the function was to help community residents, that are less fortunate financially or had some other problem that resulted in less than stellar grades, get college level classes either to prepare them for success at a traditional college or to get a specialized program certificate to advance their careers.
For a peak into the reality, let us consider a friend of mine who is a licensed practical nurse with exceptional skills and talents in wound care.
For some time, he has been working to secure the required credits in order to secure certification as a registered nurse. My friend was not able to meet the very high tuition and fees for the coming term, so he must put off his dream for another year and deprive us in the community, of the opportunity to benefit from what the full development of his talents would bring.
I just can not understand how, we as a community can continue to supplement the educations of folks from other community areas, when our own children must go without the opportunity.
In a previous column, I reported on a visit to “my contribution” in person, but when I asked on campus for the Texas Southmost admission office or any Texas Southmost office, no one could tell me where it was and didn’t realize there was a community college; I did find UTB admissions in Tandy Hall, however.
After considering the situation in depth, I must conclude that for the purpose a community college is supposed to exist, I am sad to report that we in Cameron County do not have one in the South Texas Community College.
We genuinely need a real community college back and not be required to support a university with funds extorted by way of taxes. The university should operate as others do in Texas not out of the community.
I urge that we support like minded representatives in the coming elections that will work towards returning a real community college and requiring the state to support its University.
I also would like to encourage the formation of a working group of concerned folks organize to right this serious wrong

5 Comments

  1. Fred says:

    From Brownsville Herald July 9, 2010
    The June 7 commentary written by Fred Drew titled “No real community college” was very well written and very interesting. It brought to light some of the frustrations that elderly and retired people persons must face, especially in this state.
    He speaks of a fixed income with no increase this year due to the economy. Think Social Security. Meanwhile our taxes have gone up. In my case last year they increased the valuation of my house by $10,000. This year the appraisal district decided to sock it to me by adding another $11,000. If I could sell my house for its appraised value, I would sell it in a New York minute. The house is 25 years old and as it deteriorates and needs more repairs; the value keeps going up? This adds another $100 to my property taxes.
    Cable TV keeps going up whenever they feel like it. Medicare went up, supplemental insurance goes up every year, prescription insurance goes up every year.
    Regarding the nonexistent, as per his article, community college, why do you think people locally refer to it as “Texas Almost College”? Yet the college keeps asking for more and more money.
    Of course, the college went into the real estate business by buying the Amigoland Mall and one of the old bank sites on top of purchasing the Fort Brown Motel. I am sure they bought other property. Why?
    Berta Acosta Mata
    Brownsville

  2. Fred Drew says:

    Thanks to Dino X. Chavez for his comment to my column.

    Fred,

    Your article concerning our non-existent community college was right on!

    We have been conned for too many years……it’s time for a significant change.
    Dino X. Chavez, MBA –

  3. Fred Drew says:

    Thanks to Brownsville Voice for the comment on my colmn.

    Fred Drew delivered a killer OPED this morning on facts and honest forthright analysis on the issue of TSC. He got to the issue without having to intentionally mislead anyone. This type writing carries a lot more weight with a literate and intelligent readership than what anyone with a half of brain can see is clearing flawed and incredibly biased writing without any regard for reality, as seen in Montoya’s piece.

  4. juan montoya says:

    Fred, when I read this piece I remembered a Robert Frost poem called “The Secret Sits” which is two lines long.

    “We dance round in a ring and suppose,
    But the Secret sits in the middle and knows. ”

    We all knew intuitively that the situation at the college was not kosher. It took your digging and personal experience to give flesh and substance to our suppositions. Thanks. You’re a valuable asset to our community, spiritual and otherwise.