HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — There was once a law school in the Rio Grande Valley, and now there is a push by lawmakers to bring it back.
“This legislation pretty much allows any institution to create a law school down here in the Rio Grande Valley,” said State Representative Armando Martinez, Texas House District 39.
Representative Martinez said other places in the state have access to law schools, and he wants to bring the opportunity to the Rio Grande Valley.
“Many different people have reached out and called and asked about a law school and they would love to go if they were granted that opportunity,” said Representative Martinez.
When students do not have the opportunity, Martinez said the Rio Grande Valley loses.
“When you provide an opportunity to students who no longer have to travel outside the Valley, you retain all your smart hardworking students, that do not end up in San Antonio,” said Representative Martinez.
Compared to other cities, Martinez said the Rio Grande Valley is underrepresented.
“There are over 800 people per attorney here in the Rio Grande Valley. When you go to other parts of the state maybe 300 or 400 half of that, so the disparity is large,” said Representative Martinez.
At least one other RGV lawmaker has a different priority.
“In the Rio Grande Valley, the medical school is the priority, doctors, nurses, medical technicians, and not lawyers. Recently many law schools throughout the state and the nation have reduced class sizes because of the economy,” said Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, Texas Senate District 20.
Hinojosa said the medical school could be an economic driver, as the Medical Center in San Antonio.
“Now San Antonio is a $30 billion economic driver, taking care of healthcare for the San Antonio area. We anticipate and expect the same results from the medical school in the Valley,” said Hinojosa.
Representative Terry Canales said he supports a full law school program, but a hybrid program could be a creative solution for now.
“I don’t know if we could support a full-blown law school, but I think a hybrid is something that would benefit people,” said Representative Terry Canales, Texas House District 40.
While Martinez is certain a Valley Law School would flourish, deciding to create one is not no certain.
“We are always open, into looking at educational opportunities, so a law school is one of those, but there’s a lot of studying that has to be done. “said Veronica Gonzalez, Vice President for Governmental and Community Relations, UTRGV. “They are very expensive to operate. We have to look at the need and the student demand. Is there enough demand in the Rio Grande Valley for it? What would it cost? Where would we find the money to do it.?”
Despite the challenges, Martinez says he will continue to fight for a law school.
“Absolutely, we’re going to try again, and we’re not going to stop until it gets done,” said Representative Martinez.
If House Bill 695 were to get approved, state funding to form a school would not be available until 2027.