Thursday, December 12, 2019
  Around Campus

By Victoria Brito

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – Viviana Garza, a mass communications major from San Benito, is graduating Dec. 13 after only two years at UTRGV.

She was able to finish so quickly, she said, because she took dual enrollment courses, and UTRGV has a capped tuition rate and free tuition for any classes after enrolling in 12 credit hours.

The catalyst for Garza’s drive was wanting to set the best example possible for her younger sisters, Jessica and Deyanira.

“We are basically first-generation because our parents didn’t grow up in the States,” she said. “Our life in San Benito was just ours, no connections. Everything we’ve done and accomplished, we’ve done on our own as a family.”

Her sisters currently are students at San Benito High School, and it was important to Garza to have them see her succeed.

“I can appreciate being the oldest, because who I am as a person helped me pave a way for my sisters,” she said. “They have a lot of the same teachers I did, and I hope to set the bar high for them. I want them to succeed and be even better than me.”


Part of what helped Garza along on her rapid journey to commencement was two pathways: dual enrollment and UTRGV’s tuition cap.

Dual enrollment provides academically talented high school students the opportunity to earn university credits while taking the equivalent courses in high school. Garza began dual enrollment courses during her junior year at San Benito High School, and when she graduated in 2017, she already had 36 credit hours to apply to her university career.

“I was very grateful for the dual enrollment classes. I felt it was important because it was a great opportunity to get ahead,” Garza said.

At UTRGV, Garza utilized the tuition cap by taking 15 credit hours each semester, and even went up to 18 hours in Spring 2019. 

“Taking 15 credit hours a semester was important because of the tuition cap,” she said. “After 12 credit hours, I could take as many classes I wanted without paying for extra credit hours. Plus, taking five classes a semester helps avoid having to take summer classes, and I could remain on schedule to graduate.”

She estimates she saved about $4,000 on tuition costs with the additional courses she took on the flat rate tuition.


Garza, who is graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and a minor in Spanish translation, also has been selected to ring the ceremonial commencement bell at the 9 a.m. commencement ceremony Dec. 13 at the Harlingen Convention Center.

“I wasn’t going to apply,” Garza said. “But my mom said, ‘Lo que es para tí, será para tí’ (If it is meant to be, it will happen).”

And happen it did.

Her mother, Veronica Garza, said she is proud of her oldest daughter and all she has overcome at a young age.

“Her journey has had triumphs and missteps that have taught her that faith and perseverance are essential factors to success,” Veronica Garza said.

Garza said being selected as a bell ringer feels like the exclamation point on her undergraduate career.

“This final stretch has been stressful, but my goal was to end strong,” she said. “And this final honor is the sign I needed that I am, in fact, finishing strong.”


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.