History of Texas Southmost College

Established in 1926 as the first institution of higher education in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas Southmost College represents the region’s boundless potential. Now approaching 100 years of service to our communities, the many achievements of the students, faculty, and staff are a testament to the dedicated work of the Board of Trustees, community supporters, and the entire Scorpion family.

Strong advocacy from local leaders led to establishment of the Junior College of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, which began as an extension of the local independent school district in Brownsville, Texas. Classes launched in the fall of 1926 in the local high school building with an enrollment of 84 students and a roster of seven faculty. The following year, the school district issued bonds for the construction of a new building to house the high school and the junior college.

First accredited college

Three years after its establishment, the Board voted unanimously to apply for regional accreditation, and TSC became the first accredited community college in Texas. Maintaining accreditation for almost 100 years confirms that TSC students are receiving a high-quality, well-rounded education and earning credits that can be transferred to any university in Texas.

A new name

While its commitment to providing a high-quality education remained constant, the college’s name would evolve several times. In 1939, the college became known as Brownsville Junior College. A decade later, a renaming contest was held as the college district was becoming an independent entity from the school district. Seferino Rodriguez, a student, won $25 for submitting the winning name of Texas Southmost College.

A new location

At the same time, the name of the college was changing, and so was the location of the college. As was common in the early 1900s, the college was originally established as an extension of the school district. Early TSC students attended classes in the school district building on Palm Boulevard. When GIs returned home from World War II, and enrollment began to grow, a new home was sought. After the federal government deactivated Fort Brown in 1944, the City of Brownsville, Brownsville Independent School District, the War Administration, and then-Congressman Lyndon B. Johnson negotiated the acquisition of the former Fort Brown military outpost as the new home of the college.

In the span of just a few years in the late 1940s, the college had a new name, a new home, and a separate taxing entity that would ensure its viability into the future.

Expansion to meet local demands

While originally established as an academic program institution, after World War II and throughout the 1950s, the college expanded vocational and occupational program offerings. In 1973, Texas Southmost College also became home to a local four-year extension program through Pan American University. The new entity, Pan American University-Brownsville, began classes in fall 1973. In the late 1980s, Pan American University joined The University of Texas System and its presence in Brownsville became known as The University of Texas Pan American-Brownsville. A new phase of construction was begun in 1986 when voters of the TSC taxing district approved a $13 million bond issue to improve campus infrastructure, restore historic buildings, construct classroom buildings, and expand the library.

In May 1991, the Texas Legislature created The University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB) as an upper-division university, to replace The University of Texas Pan American-Brownsville, and authorized it to enter into a partnership with Texas Southmost College to create an open door institution of higher education, providing pathways for students to progress from certificates of completion to graduate degrees. This resulted in the creation of a new umbrella entity for the two institutions, The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College (UTB/TSC).

In December 1995, The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) approved the consolidation of UTB and TSC to form the new entity, the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, with affirmation of reaccreditation following in December 2008. UTB/TSC benefitted from state investment, such as Tuition Revenue Bonds to fund growth, as well as local investment, including a $68 million bond election in 2004, which funded a wide variety of capital projects such as new classroom buildings, a second library, a state-of-the art early childhood learning center, and the Performing Arts Center.

A strengthened higher education ecosystem

2011 rang in a new era in the Lower Rio Grande Valley’s higher education ecosystem. TSC Trustees made the courageous decision to vote for re-establishing Texas Southmost College as an independent comprehensive community college. They believed the community would benefit greatly from reclaiming the community college identity, providing students with the knowledge, skills and support needed to climb the economic ladder.

To relaunch TSC as an independent institution of higher education, the Trustees and administration needed to rapidly accomplish a wide array of tasks in a very short period of time. Some of these included passing state legislation, laying the foundation for accreditation, establishing institutional policies, and much more. The Trustees persevered because they had a clear vision for how the new TSC would positively impact the community.

The 82nd Texas Legislature authorized the re-establishment of TSC and UTB as independent institutions of higher education. TSC became independently operational in fall 2013 and earned separate accreditation from SACSCOC in December 2015. That fall, Texas Southmost College was selected as a Bright Spot by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

Texas Southmost College celebrated its 95th anniversary with a year-long celebration that began in October of 2021. In just a decade since the historic vote was made to re-establish itself as an independent comprehensive community college, TSC now serves approximately 9,000 students in 8 academic transfer programs, 40 workforce degree and certification programs, and 13 workforce training programs. The largest programs include general studies, criminal justice, business, social work, and education.

The Texas Southmost College Board of Trustees contracted with The University of Texas System to deliver all of TSC’s academic programs and services, utilizing TSC’s existing campus and facilities. In turn, TSC would pay UTB for delivery of programs and services by transferring all TSC-related tuition, fees, program income, and state appropriations funding to UTB. UTB served as the operating entity, with several agreements established to govern the leasing of TSC buildings, personnel, programs, and services.

TSC has recently attained an impressive list of achievements:

  • Lowered tuition twice since 2013 to become the most affordable institution of higher education in the Rio Grande Valley
  • Increased the 3-year graduation rate to surpass the Texas average by 3.4%
  • Lowered the tax rate twice since 2021, providing taxpayers with an excellent return on investment
  • Offered Dual Credit courses at no cost to students, saving families $40 million in tuition and fees since 2017
  • Supported the academic and workforce development programs by investing $25 million in capital investments over the past five years

For more than 95 years—through innovative technological advancements, rapid population growth, wartime, economic depressions and periods of economic boom—Texas Southmost College has been steadfast in meeting the evolving needs of the communities it serves, representing the surest pathway to continued prosperity.

Together, we are Scorpion Strong!