May 16th, 2014
UTPA’s office of P-16 initiatives, which advocates for the advancement of Texas students in higher education, won Generation Texas’ (GenTX) online photo contest Wednesday.
GenTX, an organization that promotes achievement in higher education, hosted an online photo contest that held different photo categories. Some categories included sky high spirit, spirit wave and group spirit, the contest that UTPA entered. Photos entered were taken May 2, the official GenTX day in Texas. UTPA held a leadership conference that day and hosted more than 100 students.
After UTPA held their leadership conference, The City of Edinburg announced May 2 as the official GenTX day.
Voting for the contest began Tuesday via Twitter and lasted seven hours. Anyone interested in voting could tweet designated hashtags, #PicTourVote and the name of the photo, that would then cast their vote for the office of P-16 initiative’s photo.
Photo winners received GenTX goods, other prizes and statewide recognition from GenTX.
Toxicology report for dead UTPA student released
A fatal car accident that claimed the life of UTPA student Eric Davila and 20-year-old friend Joshua De Zenea March 7 was said to be caused by drunk driving. Toxicology reports released Wednesday confirmed this.
According to Valley Central News, the report showed that Davila had Xanax, a prescription anxiety medication, in his system and was nearly three times the legal blood alcohol limit.
The crash, which claimed the life of Davila at the scene, occurred at the intersection of South Sugar Road and Freddy Gonzalez Drive. De Zenea was rushed to McAllen Medical Center where he died the following week.
Both Davila and De Zenea were underage at the time of the accident, making the purchase and consumption of alcohol illegal. The young men were spotted hours before at the Thirsty Bronc on West University Drive but it is unclear to investigators if they consumed alcoholic beverages at this location.
April 3rd, 2014
Lost to the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders 15-7 April 2 at the Edinburg Baseball Stadium.
Junior Melissa Bernal finished in a tie for 17th place at the Husky Invitational April 1 at the Riverbend Country Club in Sugarland, Tx.
Finished their final round with a 304. For a ninth place finish at the ULM Wallace Jones Invitational on April 1 at the Southern Pines Golf Club in CALHOUN, La.
Lost against the University of Louisiana Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns March 30, 1-6 at the Cajun Courts in Lafayette, La.
March 20th, 2014
Candles, flowers, balloons and notes from friends and family adorn a utility pole on the corner of Sugar Road and Freddy Gonzalez Drive in honor of Eric Davila and Joshua de Zenea. A candlelight vigil was held at the location Saturday in honor of de Zenea, who had died two days earlier, March 13, after fighting for his life in the hospital.
In the early hours that March 7 morning, Davila, a 20-year-old UTPA student, and neighbor de Zenea, a South Texas College student, were driving northbound on Sugar Road at a high speed, according to Edinburg police. Davila, the driver of a grey ‘90s model Chevy Camaro, lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a utility pole on the northeast corner of the intersection, according to Action 4 News.
Davila, a sophomore kinesiology major, was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident, while de Zenea, 19, was rushed to McAllen Medical Center in critical condition. Neither of the young men were wearing a seatbelt at the time of impact.
De Zenea, a physical therapy major, fought for his life at the hospital but lost his battle Thursday, March 13. He would have been 20 years old in May.
According to the Edinburg police, illegal drugs and alcohol were both found at the scene and are believed to be the cause of the accident.
While social media was demonizing Davila for his actions that led up to the accident- only providing information about the drugs and alcohol- the words of the people who knew him painted a different picture.
Davila worked at Peter Piper Pizza on University Drive for more than two years. He was a game room attendant and greatly loved by co-workers and patrons alike. Isiah Cantu began working for Peter Piper Pizza at the same time as Davila and said what he will always remember about Davila is the smile he always donned.
“He was just always happy,” Cantu said. “That was the good thing about him, he was never mad at anyone, he would never be angry. He was always nice to customers, to us, friends. He was just a great person to be with. He was a good guy.”
According to the game room manager, Greg de la Rosa, Davila was also a stand-up employee.
“He was always here on time, whenever we needed him,” de la Rosa said. “If we needed him to come in on his day off, he would come. If he didn’t have school, he wanted to come in.”
Aside from his job at Peter Piper Pizza, Davila was also a lover of sports. He played football, baseball and ran track for Edinburg High School, from which he graduated in 2012. His coach, Robert Valdez, remembered Davila as a great kid who was never without a smile on his face.
“He had a very big heart. He was heck a of a competitor. Another thing, I think everybody knew Eric because of his smile,” noted the head EHS baseball coach and football assistant. “He was always smiling, no matter how gloomy the situation was, it always seemed to light up a room, or give us hope or aspiration on the sideline or in the dugout.”
Valdez also felt that the press put Davila and de Zenea in a bad light by reporting that drugs were the main cause of the accident, saying that only one side of the truth was released to the general public.
“Everything that was publicized through the media is speculation. There are two sides to this story. The only thing that came forward is what the media and what the press wanted out there. It doesn’t absolutely mean (the drugs) were all Eric (Davila)’s (or) all Josh (de Zenea)’s,” Valdez said. “Nobody knows the real story…it’s just a tragedy that came out of this. The consequences when you do play with fire, you are eventually going to get burned.”
Eric Ortiz, a neighborhood friend of Davila and de Zenea, said he had known them for more than 10 years.
Ortiz said de Zenea, much like Davila, was a good guy that everybody liked.
“(De Zenea) always liked to put everybody before himself, no matter what the consequences were, no matter what the situation was,” the 22-year-old said. “Whether it was going out of his way at two in the morning to go pick somebody up, regardless of the situation, he would say yes. He was never a ‘no’ kind of person, it was always yes, yes, yes.”
In order to help the Davila family pay for funeral expenses, a fundraiser was organized at Peter Piper Pizza by his friends March 10. Upon presenting a flyer provided by the Facebook page created for the fundraiser, the establishment would donate 15 percent of the bill to the Davila family.
A separate barbecue fundraiser was held in memory of de Zenea March 15 at Superior Oil Express, across the street from the scene of the accident. Money from the fundraiser was used to help the family pay for medical bills that accumulated over the six days de Zenea spent in the hospital prior to his death, according to Ortiz.
Funeral services for de Zenea were held Monday at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in McAllen. Christian services were held for Davila at The Family Church in McAllen Tuesday, March 11.
March 11th, 2014
Early on the UTPA Broncs baseball team has taken home a three-game winning streak against the Arlington Baptist Patriots. The game ended in a double header March 8.
The Broncs last game against the Patriots allowed for a 4-2 victory at the Edinburg Baseball Stadium. Originally, the game was meant to spread from March 7-9. But because of bad weather heading toward the Rio Grande Valley, Saturday’s game was turned into a double header, forcing the Broncs and the Patriots to play a total of 18 innings with only a 40 minute prep time in-between.
According to the Bronc third basemen, Alberto Morales, the team held together through the day. It was not easy but in the end its what they had to do.
“Anytime you get three wins on a weekend its good,” Morales said. “These (doubleheaders) are just a mental grid. You know you got to play 18 innings and you just got to grind it out. Fatigue is going to kick in but the mental side is the strong side.”
While the Broncs ended their back-to- back weekend, Kyle Tokunaga had his first start of the season against the Patriots March 8. He pitched a total of seven innings and led the team to a 5-2 game against their opponents.
“It felt pretty good,” Tokunga said. “Went out there, threw a lot of strikes, threw a lot of ground balls and that’s what you got to do when you go pitch, you got to give your team a chance to win. Getting strikes-that’s what is going to do it.”
With their noses to the grindstone, the Broncs pulled through against the Patriots but know that they still have a whole season ahead of them. With their first Weastern Athletic Conference game coming up, Morales and his team are eager to move up in the ranks of this new conference.
“We are excited for our first WAC weekend, which is coming up two weeks from now (March 21).” Morales said. “It’s exciting and we are ready to play. As a team we are just trying to win a WAC championship…first year will be a big deal for us…but that is what I am looking forward to.”
Although the Broncs ended this spring break weekend with a win they will head out on a 7 game road trip starting March 11-12. The first stop will be College Station, where they will battle it out against the Texas A&M University Aggies for the first time this season.
January 23rd, 2014
Changing majors for university students in Texas now comes at a higher price due to the excess-hour fee charged under the Enrollment Cap Rule (ECR).
Since fall 2013, undergraduate students enrolled in more than 30 hours beyond the minimum required for their degree plan are charged a fee of $351 per semester credit hour, in addition to their standard tuition rates. Such fees could mean up to $4,000 in excess hour tuition charges per semester, according to a bulletin post by the University Academic Advising Center.
While the increase in the fee charges have recently occurred, the ECR has limited UTPA’s affordable tuition since it was enforced by the state of Texas in 2006.
Breaking the status quo, UTPA was recently featured in Affordable College Online’s ranking of “Online Colleges in Texas That Win on Affordability.” Having ranked fifth out of 49, the University has been recognized as an institution that offers online degree programs at prices lower than other post-secondary competitors, such as Sul Ross State University and University of Houston-Downtown. In comparison, The University of Texas of the Permian Basin ranked sixth and The University of Texas at Tyler ranked 19th.
In addition, UTPA boasts an annual tuition that is approximately $3,000 less than Texas State University and Texas A&M University and $5,000 less than the University of Texas at Dallas.
Each year, UTPA awards scholarships through the UTPA Excellence and Departmental Scholarship program, which consists of more than 100 available departmental scholarships. The application opened in early September 2013 and closed Jan. 15.
The accessibility to scholarships, work-study and internship opportunities makes UTPA affordable, according to Kaitylnn Lavallee, a biology major at UTPA.
“I know of many people on financial aid and there are scholarship, internship and employment opportunities on campus for students,” the 19-year-old said. “I am very blessed to already have a job on campus with the agro-ecology lab, aiding my living expenses and savings for next year.”
Jael Garcia, associate director for Student Financial Services, commented that the University accommodates students by providing higher education that is both affordable and accessible.
“Our tuition is relatively low,” Garcia said. “And it is commonly known that the Federal Pell Grant does not cover all of the student expenses and the majority have to pay out of their own pocket. However, at the University, we have students who are able to pay their tuition and fees with just their Federal Grant and they don’t have to worry about loans and such.”
Janette Vasquez, who is working toward a Master’s degree in information technology, lives at home and commented on the deciding factors that led her to choose UTPA.
“I chose UTPA because tuition is lower,” the 25-year-old said. “There’s plenty of financial aid, tuition isn’t too high and, as a local student, I don’t have to waste (money) on living costs or an apartment.”
Tuition and fees at UTPA are estimated at $5,034 per semester, an affordable insitution in comparison to Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s, whose tuition and fees are $6,594 per semester, according to affordablecolelgesonline.com
CHEAP WITH LIMITATIONS
However, with such affordable tuition available to students, many have found it easy to change their majors midway through their education, thus prolonging graduation. As a result, they have accumulated excess hours and cost the state further expenses in financial aid.
In a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, 59 percent of students enrolled full time in a four-year institution aiming to obtain a Bachelor’s degree graduated within six years.
In an effort to help students graduate on time, the ECR was created to encourage undergraduate students that attend public colleges and universities to complete their degree programs in a four-year period, according to the Undergraduate Academic Policies and Procedures Information.
However, for senior political science major Andrew Coward, the ECR is anything but encouraging.
“The Enrollment Cap Rule has me in an uncomfortable state of mind,” Coward said. “I now have new loan debts I have to pay for when I graduate because my financial aid is no longer enough to cover my tuition.”
According to the political science major, his tuition for the spring semester exceeds what he was charged in spring 2012, despite the fact that he is now registered for one hour less.
“I am paying more now that I am registered for 12 hours than what I paid last year when I took 13,” Coward said. “It’s crazy.”
According to the ECR, some students with accumulated excess-credit hours may have acquired them while taking dual-enrollment in high school, through remedial courses, or while studying in private or out-of-state-institutions. However, students with such excess hours are exempt from the ECR fees. Other exemptions include:
1. Any hours earned 10 or more years before a student’s enrollment under the Academic Fresh Start Program (a program that allows Texas residents who apply for admission or readmission into Texas public colleges to begin a new course of study with a clear academic record);
2. Hours from a previous Bachelor’s degree;
3. Hours earned via credit-by-exams or any similar methods that did not require registration for a course.
However, students not exempt from the ECR fees are those who exceeded their hours by taking classes that did not count toward their degree or those who changed majors.
This is the case for Coward, who changed his mind multiple times.
“I changed my major twice,” he said. “But while I studied at South Texas College, not UTPA.”
According to the ECR, Coward’s change of major in another institution does not exempt him from being subject to the charges because STC, like UTPA, is a public Texas institution.
Despite his new debt as a result of the higher tuition, Coward believes he will manage to complete his education on time.
This may not be the case, however, for students from low-income backgrounds.
“These higher tuition rates may push low-income students out and take away their opportunity of obtaining a higher education,” the political science major said.
For senior general studies major Olivia Carrillo, higher tuition means transitioning from being a full-time to a part-time student. But, unlike Coward, her fees are not from changing her major, but rather from dual-enrollment she earned in high school.
Although Carrillo’s dual-credit earned hours make her exempt from the excess-hour fees and she will seek to correct the charges with the UTPA registrar, she can do little to avoid the financial worry until then.
“I graduated as a junior from high school and have been a full-time student since I started at UTPA,” Carrillo said. “But now, even though I work, if I am not able to get these charges corrected and clarified, I will not be able to afford it.”
Despite plans to graduate in fall 2014, Carrillo’s goal may be delayed due to the new financial hardships the ECR charges may present.
“My parents don’t earn enough to help me pay for school,” Carrillo said. “With my job, I can barely cover my books and expenses. I don’t know how I would graduate if the charges are final.”
In an effort to correct her excessive tuition, Carrillo will contact the Registrar’s Office to have them review her bill and appeal her charges.
The general studies major recommends other students in this situation do the same.
“No matter what, if something doesn’t seem right, do not do just nothing about it,” Carrillo said. “It’s our education on the line. It’s worth the effort, the time and the worry.”
December 20th, 2013
The University women’s basketball swept in a win against the University of Texas at Arlington with a score of 75-63 at the Field House Dec. 18. After the win the team is now tied for the best season start in program history at 6-4.
The win was much needed after two back- to-back losses against Texas A&M and Texas Christian University, stated Shawnte’, Goff a guard for the Broncs.
“We came out and did what we needed to do,” Goff said. “We didn’t play good at TCU, we didn’t do good at Corpus, so we knew we had to come out and get this win.”
On top of the win the team put forward a season high of 11 three pointers, fourth highest in program history. Goff scored seven of those totaling her career-game high of 25 points. Trailing behind her was Jasmine Thompson who scored a game high of 22 points with five rebounds and three steals.
Goff and Thompson lead the team in scoring but at first the team struggled as they were down 28 to 15 with 10:30 seconds left in the first half. But the Bronc’s held tough and eventually caught up and pilled within one point with only 7 minutes left in the first half. UTA however, still held on to the lead until Goff scored a three pointer tying the game in the second half at 41, and the rest is history.
As Tonisha Walker, a guard explains they struggled at first due to one of their top scorers being out due to a broken toe.
“We all had to step up and contribute,” Walker said. “We have depth as a team and we will pull out in the end.”
Despite the setback of an injury and rocky start to their game the Bronc’s prevailed and will face off against the University of Nebraska at Omaha in Wichita, Ks. Dec. 21.
December 5th, 2013
For the nearly 1,000 students on the cusp of graduating in spring 2014, there are only a few more classes that stand between them leaving college. However, these classes could cost double the price they were originally paying when they first enrolled at UTPA.
The excess credit hours policy is a statewide policy. According to the state law, once a student has taken more than 30 hours required for their degree plan, they will be charged with non-resident tuition. This includes courses that are repeated, duplicated and/or dropped. With a recent approval to increase these charges, prices can jump from $810 for nine hours of classes to $3,186 by fall 2014, as stated on the Academic Advisement Center’s page on the policy. The law was implemented in spring 2006 and affects students at all public universities and colleges in Texas.
“What happens is that the state no longer reimburses the University for part of (a student’s) tuition,” explained Marilyn Hagerty, director of the University Academic Advisement Center (UAAC). “When you’ve reached your limit, the state says, ‘We’re no longer going to pay for part of your tuition,’ which is why you’re then charged for out-of-state tuition…basically it’s to get students to graduate sooner.”
Students are normally informed of this policy at their UTPA Orientation and the UAAC has held monthly information sessions since the excess hour charge was approved. Students who transfer from private institutions or institutions out of the state are not affected since the state does not pay for these credits earned.
According to Hagerty, students affected by this policy the most are ones who change their majors later in their academic careers.
“The later you change your major, the more you’re most likely to be impacted,” Hagerty said. “Students who also drop too many credits or keep repeating a class to get a better grade are mostly affected as well.”
For students who are notified of reaching their limit, their next step is to seek help from the advisement center to appeal the fees.
“When we get a report back that accounts for all of the student’s credits, we then schedule an appointment with the student and a professional guidance counselor so they can sit down and see where they are and how much time they have before they graduate,” Hagerty said. “Once they’ve developed a graduation plan and they see that they don’t have a lot of time in between then and graduation, then the student can go through with appealing the law.”
This was the case with Esteban Padilla, a senior chemistry major, that was affected by this policy when he attempted to pursue a double major in music and chemistry.
“Because the two degrees are so far apart, I had to appeal to get an extra 50 hours to my cap,” Padilla said. “However, as I got closer to graduation and saw that I would need even more hours, it became a situation where I had to give up the music major because financially I would not be able to add on extra classes.”
According to a 2011 study done by the National Center for Education Statistics, 59 percent of students attending a four-year institution graduated within six years, with 57 percent of these students attending public institutions. As for UTPA, a U.S. News ranking shows that the four-year graduation rate is at 18 percent, while its six-year graduation rate is 39 percent.
As the policy continues to be enforced, Padilla agrees with the policy’s intention to get students graduating within four years.
“I’d go as far as calling it a necessary evil,” Padilla said. “It really upset me to give up the major and if I had to go through it all over again I would hate it, but it forced me to get more career-oriented and find which direction I wanted to go in life.”
June 14th, 2013
Freshmen Magdalena Chapa signs a banner displayed in the Student Union by Bronc Bacchus Peer Educators in celebration of National Flag Day. The club, which raises awareness of health and safety issues campus-wide, wanted to honor veterans, Program Coordinator Nancy Chapa said.
“Today, we wanted to do something for our veterans, so we displayed a banner for people to sign,” Nancy, who will be a graduate student in rehabilitation counseling in the fall, said. “Along with (the banner) we have information regarding post-traumatic stress disorder, it affects many veterans, but also can affect other people.”
PTSD is a mental health condition that may develop after a person is exposed to one or more traumatic events, such as a serious injury or sexual assault. Nearly 30 percent of veterans have the disorder, according to a 2012 report by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
This disorder is just one of many issues the club provides information on, Cantu said.
“We cover four areas: mental health, substance abuse, well-being and sexual responsibility,” she said.
June 13th, 2013
The U.S. Senate is on the second day of open debate regarding Senate Bill 744, an immigration bill that would allow an estimated 11 million current undocumented immigrants in the United States to become U.S. citizens. S. 744, also known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, addresses all aspects of the immigration process, from border security to legal immigration issues.
Introduced to the Senate April 16, the bill was crafted by a group of bipartisan senators known as the “Gang of Eight”: Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). This bill could potentially affect the 645 Dreamers that attend UTPA; Dreamers is a term used for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States when they were young and are now pushing for immigration reform.
If this bill is passed, the Department of Homeland Security would need to craft a plan to secure high-risk sectors of the border, areas that arrest more than 30,000 undocumented immigrants annually, and add more fencing.
In addition, undocumented immigrants would be able to apply for Registered Provisional Immigrant status. Among other requirements, to qualify for this status, a person must have been physically present in the United States on or before Dec. 31, 2011. After being an RPI for 10 years, a person would then be able to apply for Lawful Permanent Resident status. Three years later, the person would be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.
However, if the bill is passed, there is a streamlined path to citizenship available to those who entered the United States before the age of 16, graduated from high school or received a GED in the States and attended two years of college or served four years in the military. Echoing the Dream Act, this provision would allow college students who meet this criteria to apply for RPI status, proceed to LPR status after five years and then could immediately apply for U.S. citizenship.