Hidalgo County Commissioners have pledged their full support of a new county employee scholarship at the University of Texas-Pan American beginning in the fall.

In a resolution presented to County Commissioners Court on Tuesday April 29, the county said it has seen an opportunity to expand the scholarship from South Texas College to include UTPA, which is currently the 10th largest university in the state and fifth largest in the UT System.

UTPA is among the 100 best colleges in the U.S. for Hispanics, said county officials quoting Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education. The university offers 55 bachelor’s degree programs, 53 master’s, two doctorals and two cooperative doctoral programs to more than 17,500 students.

“Higher education opens the doors to opportunity, leading to a stronger local workforce, increase per capita income of residents, and an enhanced quality of life for all,” the resolution states.

Hidalgo County has partnered with STC since spring 2008 to offer the scholarship to full time county employees and their dependents. Employees have to have at least one year working for the county.

The scholarship will be funded solely by third party donors who, at the two previous State of the County Addresses, gave more than $14,000 to scholarship fund.

The County and UTPA have agreed that the first scholarship award of $2000 per year, $1,000 per semester, will be given to the “most deserving” employee and dependent applicants who meet all eligibility requirements outlined by the UTPA Scholarship Committee.

The scholarships will only cover tuition and fees. County employees who are also students have to maintain a 2.5 grade point average. Dependents have to maintain a 2.5 GPA. An employee has to remain with the county throughout the duration of the scholarship.