The University Center at Harlingen: New Doors Open in Higher Education


The University Center at Harlingen:
New Doors Open in Higher Education
Krystal Krenek

The ribbon was cut and the applause sounded for the grand opening of The University Center at Harlingen at the end of August.  Texas State Technical College and the Economic Development Corporation of Harlingen have partnered together to build the 38,500 square foot home for a unique new set of higher education opportunities for Valley residents.

The South Texas Education Partnership, or STEP, is a collaborative effort between TSTC and eight Texas universities that collectively provide 23 bachelor’s degrees, 23 master’s degrees, and 1 doctoral program.  The participating universities are the University of Texas at Brownsville, the University of Texas Pan American, Texas A&M University Kingsville, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, Our Lady of the Lake University, the University of Houston, Wayland Baptist University, and LeTourneau University.  Classified as a Multi-Institutional Teaching Center, or MITC, by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the University Center at Harlingen already boasts the largest number of participating schools and programs offerings and has four hundred students poised to begin the fall semester.

“There is an amazing air of collaboration among all of the partners.  The high enrollment to date is a testament to the forward vision of everyone involved in recognizing the need for a venue like this to serve potential area students,” said University Center Executive Director Lisa Cavazos.

TSTC manages the day-to-day operation of the University Center on behalf of the governing counsel established by the University partners.  The counsel ensures that the partners do no compete with one another, but instead offer a wide range of complementary educational opportunities for area students at different stages in their education journey.

Although TSTC has hosted programs offered by some of the MITC’s university partners for years, “the University Center combines resources in a way that makes the whole greater than the parts,” states Cavazos.  “We have students calling in who are excited by what is being offered and who are considering relocating to attend school here.”

The well thought out partnership at the University Center is intended to make the next step in every student’s education a seamless transition. Students can complete two years of academic core classes at TSTC before applying for any of the Bachelor’s programs, and concurrent enrollment is offered.  For those students who have already earned a college degree, the University Center offers a means of pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees without the need to relocate.

The University Center at Harlingen is changing the face of higher education in South Texas.  In addition to its innovative programs, the facility is the first LEED Gold certified building in South Texas.  That status is considered a top honor in “green building” circles and was made possible by a host of innovative features including roof mounted solar panels, advanced air quality and energy controls, and an energy-efficiency profile that is nearly 45% better than that required by industry standards.

“The University Center gives area students more opportunities than ever before to pursue a better life,” says Cavazos. “The door to this building is the door to opportunity.”

The University Center of Harlingen is located at 2424 Boxwood Street at TSTC Harlingen.  For more information on programs offered and enrollment opportunities, visit, or call Lisa Cavazos at 956.364.4535.