20 years of changing lives, changing communities

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Looking through photographs from the past twenty years, South Texas College (STC) Founding President Dr. Shirley A. Reed recalls the excitement and anticipation from Rio Grande Valley residents and employers that a community college was finally being created close to home and affordable for all.

“There was an overwhelming response from the community,” Reed said. “Their support for what was then South Texas Community College (STCC) could literally be seen in the student registration lines that wrapped around the building.

STCC's founding boardmembers circa 1993.
STCC’s founding boardmembers circa 1993.
Left to right; Glen Roney, Manuel Benavidez Jr., Dr. Amparo Cardenas, Gary Gurwitz, and Ruben Hinojosa. Sitting; Rosalinda Gonzalez and Pearl Mathis.

When people realized that they had the opportunity to go to college, it just exploded.”

Indeed STC has seen steady growth in its student enrollment starting with 1,058 students in 1993 to an impressive 31,232 students this fall 2013. It is projected that enrollment will reach more than 42,000 by 2020. STC is now nationally ranked as the 4th of the nation’s 1,200 community colleges in awarding associate degrees to Hispanics, 44th in awarding associate degrees to all students and has the highest graduation rate for very large community colleges in Texas.

“As much as the College has grown and changed, some things are still the same,” Reed pointed out. “We use 100 portable classrooms to accommodate our students, and we are still using crossing guards to safely escort students, faculty and staff on a daily basis across Pecan Boulevard in McAllen. We are at the point where some of our programs, such as at our Nursing & Allied Health Campus, are turning away students for lack of space and resources. There is still so much to accomplish in order to provide access to higher education and the support originally envisioned for our students.”

 

Sharing this vision was Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. who continues to be an avid supporter of the College. “I take immense joy in celebrating South Texas College’s success,” expressed Lucio. “I was privileged to have authored the legislation which created STC in 1993, along with my colleague and good friend, former Representative Roberto Gutierrez. I have had the opportunity to support STC as it attracted bright young people from across the Valley with its ever-growing catalogue of degree programs.  ”

Senator Lucio’s pride in STC is clearly evident as he recalls the positive change the institution has had on the Rio Grande Valley. “Twenty years later, STC’s impact on the region is enormous.  Today, STC is a nationally-recognized community college which produces highly motivated and successful students, almost all of whom are Hispanic and a majority of whom are the first in their families to attend college.  The quality education STC provides will improve Texas families’ lives for generations to come.  Truly, with every passing year, STC continues to transform higher education in the Rio Grande Valley.”

South Texas College was first created with the goal of it serving as an economic development strategy to foster growth in the South Texas region.  Today, STC serves as a catalyst for regional economic prosperity and social mobility. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, since the College’s creation in 1993, unemployment in Hidalgo County has reduced from 24.1% to 11.3% and 40.3% to 15.6% in Starr County.

Today, according to FY 2013 data, the economic impact of STC on the Rio Grande Valley due to employee salaries, student expenditures, institutional expenditures and new construction and renovation totals over $204,000,000 per year.

South Texas Community College celebrated its first year with a birthday party. The community gave "birthday gifts" that included everything from office supplies to building equipment in order to make the college grow.
South Texas Community College celebrated its first year with a birthday party. The community gave “birthday gifts” that included everything from office supplies to building equipment in order to make the college grow.

“When we dreamt of the College, we envisioned STC being recognized and valued for our contribution to the economic vitality and quality of life in the communities we serve,” Reed said, looking at pictures of an early graduation ceremony on the Pecan Campus lawn. “All South Texas families have the right and the opportunity to earn a living wage. It is our responsibility to provide them with a quality education at an affordable price, but we can’t do that without support for the growth that is expected over the next decade.”

Since 2003, South Texas College has awarded 31,401 degrees and certificates. In addition, STC has served more than 67,000 students in 68 high schools as part of Dual Enrollment Program, saving Rio Grande Valley families more than $71 million in tuition waived by South Texas College. The creation of the High School Drop-Out Recovery Program, which began in partnership with PSJA ISD has graduated 3,320 students from high school in the last five years and many are attending STC.  The program has been replicated across Hidalgo county thanks to legislation introduced by Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa,  Senate Bill 975 – the Dropout Recovery Bill,  authorizing Texas community colleges to partner with ISDs to deliver dropout recovery programs.

For the past twenty years, the College’s Board of Trustees has been directly involved in making these accomplishments possible by being actively present and providing responsible leadership. A constant figure has been Board Member Gary Gurwitz, who has served since its inception. “Serving on the Board of Trustees from the beginning has been a fantastic experience.  I am amazed at the immediate, positive impact the College had on the communities served by South Texas College.  I am part of a great team of trustees, administrators, staff, faculty and students.  After my family and my law firm, being part of the success of South Texas College is one of the most personally satisfying adventures in which I am involved. Stay tuned, there is more to come.”

More is certainly on the way. In addition to the more than 112 degree and certificate options and the twenty associate degrees offered online, STC is also one of only three community colleges in Texas accredited to offer applied baccalaureate degrees.  A Bachelor of Applied Technology (BAT) degree in Technology Management, Computer and Information Technologies, Medical and Health Services Management and a

Former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore visited STCC in May 1999.
Former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore visited STCC in May 1999.

new degree in Organizational Leadership may all be attained at STC. So far, the College has awarded 582 baccalaureate degrees as of May 2013.

Congressman Rubén Hinojosa has also been a staunch supporter of bringing growth and prosperity through higher education to the Rio Grande Valley and has been committed to the success of the College. “South Texas College continues

to expand and reach more students than ever before. As one of the founding members of this impressive institution of higher education, I beam with pride at the accomplishments made by the dedicated educators and the quality educational experiences STC has offered to thousands of students. I want to especially thank and congratulate my friend, Dr. Shirley Reed, President of South Texas College for her valued leadership. Congratulations to everyone who has long supported STC, now celebrating its 20th year!”

Looking onward to the next twenty years, Dr. Reed affirms that there is still much work to be done. “In the Rio Grande Valley, we are at half the education attainment level for adults as compared to the rest of Texas. Higher education directly impacts the development of workforce talent and companies will only come where they can find highly-skilled employees.

Our successes over the last 20 years reflect the enormous challenges we have faced and which are still before us.  Few have an opportunity to help transform a region and STC has been privileged with this opportunity.  We are proud of our significant contributions and remain committed to helping transform the region by expanding the middle class, serving as the pathway to prosperity, and helping create high-skill, high-wage jobs.