Texas Border Business
By Amanda Sotelo
South Texas College has received national recognition yet again by Excelencia in Education as a top five college in the United States to award associate degrees to Hispanics.
Excelencia in Education, a Washington, D.C. home-based nonprofit, aims to accelerate Latino student success in higher education by promoting Latino student achievement, conducting analysis to inform educational policies, advancing institutional practices and collaborating with organizations and institutions of higher education, like STC, that are committed and ready for the mission.
STC, a Hispanic-Serving Institution, with 96% of its nearly 30,000 student population of Mexican American descent. In a recent Excelencia analysis titled, “Latino College Completion: United States 2023, STC is expected to award 3,918 associate degrees this year, with 3,771 of those degrees going to Hispanics.
STC President Ricardo J. Solis calls this a life-changing achievement for the students that the college serves.
“As we continue to implement bold and innovative solutions to change the landscape of education for our region, we also scale up programs and initiatives to accelerate Latino completion,” he said. “Working concurrently with Excelencia and other educational partners, our goal is to close the degree completion gap with not only two-year degrees, but also apprenticeship programs, short-term certificates, industry training and dual credit programs. We’re on the cusp of transformation…transforming lives, industries and the RGV.”
This summer, STC became the first college in the nation to introduce a registered nurse apprenticeship program, an earn-while-you-learn model that allows students to do clinicals at a partner hospital, get paid and complete their degrees, simultaneously.
Additionally, STC has also implemented short-term certificate opportunities such as its Google IT (information technology) certifications and has introduced industry training and concurrent enrollment programs into Mexico.
These initiatives play a critical role in closing college degree completion gaps between Hispanic and non-Hispanic students, which has increased from 2% to 5% over the last several years according to Excelencia’sanalysis.
Hispanics/Latinos are the fastest growing racial/ethnic group in the U.S. that comprise one-fifth of the country’s populations s critical to the country’s economy, which increasingly demands an educated and skilled workforce, Excelencia officials said.
“Our country will thrive if we intentionally serve Latino students while serving all,” said Sarita Browns, Excelencia in Education co-founder and president. “We are proud to work with a national network of forward-thinking institutional leaders who are demonstrating what is possible when it comes to accelerating Latino student success in higher education. Each has made common cause with Excelencia by committing to transforming their institutions to become places where Latino students thrive. In doing so, they are ensuring America’s future.”
Anahid Petrosian, STC vice president of Academic Affairs, said this recent recognition by Excelencia, is a testament to the work the college is doing in fulfilling its mission of providing educational opportunities through excellence in teaching and learning, cultural enrichment, workforce development, community service and regional and global collaborations.
One of the keys to STC’s success she added, is the college’s expansive collaborations with area school districts.
“One of the keys to our success is collaborating with our K-12 partners to develop a robust college-going culture,” she said. “STC has served close to 130,000 high school students through our dual credit programs, and every May, when graduation comes around, these high school students make up almost half of the graduates earning associate degrees.”
Petrosian also said that by implementing Guided Pathways, a multiple-year strategy built on essential practices that help students clarify their end goals, choose the right educational path, provide support and ensure learning, STC is able to identify, track and connect students with resources aligned to their specific needs.
“We are honored to be a national leader in awarding associate degrees to Hispanics,” said Petrosian. “South Texas College actively supports our students and has a proven track record when it comes to providing access to higher education for Hispanics; we are an outstanding entry point that leads to higher paying jobs for our students and economic growth for our communities.”