The Northeast Texas Consortium of Colleges and Universities is a higher education collaborative effort to bring a wide range of instruction and healthcare services to 50 rural Northeast Texas counties. With a service area containing 46% of the rural Texas population, the Consortium has impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands of students.

Recognized by the Texas State Legislature as the Northeast Texas Initiative, the Consortium provides a very broad spectrum of services. They range from the coordination of educational network technologies and systems management; to distance learning curriculum design and course development; to staff training and technical support; to grant and project management. The Northeast Texas Consortium supports distance learning programs at colleges and other partner sites leading to careers in such high demand fields as practical nursing, manufacturing technology, biotechnology, multi-craft maintenance, information technology (IT), and environmental science.

To view the August 2000 document, select this link Agreement of the Northeast Texas Communications Network

The Creation of NETnet

The Consortium’s most recognized project, the Northeast Texas Network or NETnet, was first envisioned in the early 1990s through a grant proposal constructed by Tyler Junior College, UT Health Northeast, Stephen F. Austin State University, Southwestern Bell Communications and other area colleges and universities. Concurrently, State Senator Bill Ratliff and a committee of college and university leaders commissioned a study of the higher educational needs within the Northeast Texas Region. The 1994 response highlighted opportunities for educational advancement such as expanded degree and certificate programs, non-traditional methods for reaching underserved student populations, and technology-enhanced curriculum delivery. To offer these benefits to a widely dispersed population of over two million rural Texans, however, would require a different approach than creating “brick and mortar” locations. Specifically, the report endorsed the creation of a Texas educational network.

Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Report

Angelina College
Kilgore College
Northeast Texas Community College
Panola College
Paris Junior College
Texarkana College
Texas State Technical College - Marshall
Trinity Valley Community College
Tyler Junior College and Student Retention Reports
I. Texas Public Universities' Data and Performance Report, Part I
II. University Profiles
Globalizing Texas Higher Education for the New Century - A Response to Closing the Gaps
Data Resources for the 2003 LBB Performance Measures, Texas Community, State and Technical Colleges
Graduates by Gender (Workforce Education CIP Codes with No Approved Awards) and Graduates by Ethnicity 2001-2002
Data Resources for Institutional Effectiveness Measures and Standards 2003-2004

Early Consortium Leaders

Senator Bill Ratliff

Dr. Keith McFarland
Texas A&M Commerce

Dr. Carl "Cheesie" Nelson
Texarkana College

Bill Holda
Kilgore College

Greg Powell
Panola College

A larger Northeast Texas Consortium of College and University Presidents formed in 1995 with the individual college presidents of the region serving on an Administrative Board. With legislative funding appropriated on behalf of the colleges as the Northeast Texas Initiative and placed under the fiscal management of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler, the organization took shape and gained continuing funding. The funding structure was altered in 2017 when the Texas Legislature moved the Initiative out of a special item category to be a regularly funded item under the auspices of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The Coordinating Board, in turn, contracted the management of the Consortium with The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler.

The NETnet mission also grew during this period to address the needs of its two largest student populations - public school and healthcare facilities. Two regional collaboratives were launched under the management of NETnet - a public school SUPERNet Consortium and a medical East Texas Interactive Healthcare Network (ETIHN).

Bylaws of The Northeast Texas Telecommunications Network

The network project resulted in a 21-site carrier-grade microwave network linking over 300 geographical miles of rural East Texas. Over the last decade, network capabilities have increasingly migrated towards a fiber-optic infrastructure, partnering with Texas A&M University, The UT System, Peoples Communications and the FCC Rural Health Initiative.  In addition, NETnet coordinated the installation of an advanced video conference room at each of the participating sites.

The Consortium Mission

With a targeted mission to “increase access to educational and rural health programs for the people of Northeast Texas through collaboration and state-of-the-art technology,” the Northeast Texas Consortium has since represented one of The University of Texas Systems’ most successful collaborative endeavors in the state. Now serving more than 120,000 K-12, u­­ndergraduate, and graduate students, the consortium brings together the community colleges, public school districts, Stephen F. Austin State University, and both A&M and University of Texas regional universities within the umbrella of a common mission. In addition to its original wireless network, NETnet has leveraged its resources to enable the creation of more than 1000 miles of fiber networking serving both the member colleges and numerous educational and medical partner facilities.

The Clements Group Study

An additional study by the Clements Group was commissioned in 2010 to identify unmet educational needs and resources applicable to the Consortium in Northeast Texas. Their final report generated four areas of needed collaboration: community broadband development; medical & nursing education, workforce development, and student retention. Constructed from community forums and interviews with numerous local leaders, the study process generated interest and ideas to direct Consortium initiatives for the coming decade.

The study’s results were instrumental in restoring Northeast Texas Initiative Funding in the 2015/16 Legislative session and moved the consortium into broader service. The Consortium explored options for increased student support, resulting in a shared TC3 Initiative, to provide common software resources and to encourage shared business practices among the member community colleges. The project also resulted in the Consortium’s discovery of funding options for networking through the FCC, significantly expanding the partnership’s footprint.

The Magellan Report

An additional study was commissioned as a follow up in 2014, providing a ten-year outlook for broadband networking to support the colleges and their partners in the region. NETnet is currently moving forward towards the 2020s with the report as its blueprint.