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State gives Lee branch campus OK

January 26, 2024

As good educators should, Lee College and Barbers Hill ISD crossed all their Ts and dotted all there Is before heading up the road to Austin. Maybe rubbed a rabbit’s foot, just to make sure.

But, as hoped, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board approved Lee College’s request to establish a branch campus within Barbers Hill Independent School District if the proposed maintenance tax receives voter approval. The vote was unanimous.

The THECB also approved BHISD’s request to hold the branch campus maintenance tax election.

“We are thrilled that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has officially approved the building of a Lee College branch campus in Mont Belvieu,” said Dr. Lynda Villanueva, Lee College president. “We are extremely proud of our partnership with Barbers Hill ISD and Superintendent Dr. Greg Poole and look forward to the college being even more accessible to all students in our service area.”

Poole, Villanueva’s peer as leader at their respective institutions, called the Thursday afternoon news, “the culmination of years of extensive dialogue and planning. The Barbers Hill branch campus will provide a long-term positive impact for students and community.”

Daryl Fontenot, chairman of Lee College’s Board of Regents can’t wait for the final approval.

“This is a tremendous milestone in the process,” he said. “When this process is complete and we are able to expand our curriculum to reach greater numbers of students in our service area will truly be an historic event and we look forward to that day in the not too distant future.

“We are pleased to be partnering with BHISD on this monumental project.”

The Barbers Hill school board must vote to call a branch campus election by Feb. 16. If approved by the board, Barbers Hill taxpayers would vote to establish the branch campus on May 4.

State law allows for the formation of a branch campus in which the tax moneys raised can only be utilized within the jurisdiction of the district. The tax associated with a Barbers Hill college cannot by law exceed 5 cents per $100 valuation.

The Barbers Hill ISD tax rate will not increase as a result of the college plan’s passage.

Barbers Hill plans to build a $30 million, 60,000-square-foot building that would house classrooms, lecture halls and all of the student support services furnished at Lee College. 

The campus is expected to serve about 1,000 students.

By Dave Rogers, Baytown Sun