South Texas College was well-represented at the Second Annual Texas Tribune Festival, held from Sept. 21-23 at Austin, where STC President Shirley A. Reed participated on a panel discussion and the college’s Student Government Association had the opportunity to meet and chat with several state and federal elected officials, public policy professionals, activists, advocates, and academic leaders.
The festival brings together the state’s most prominent thinkers, politicians and public servants for a weekend of debate, discussion and dialogue on the subjects that matter most to Texans.
STC President Shirley A. Reed served as special invited guest panelist on the discussion about “Educating the Emerging Hispanic Majority,” along with the President of Excelencia in Education Sarita E. Brown, University of Texas-Brownsville President Juliet V. García, and Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District Superintendent Daniel King.
“Part of why we have been successful is because we have the heart and the passion,” said Reed during the panel discussion. “If the state of Texas doesn’t find a way to educate its largest demographic, there is going to be a rather uncertain future for the state of Texas. How can the predominant population be the least educated? How are they going to contribute to the economy? Who will be our new leaders in the state of Texas if they don’t passionately commit to doing this work and getting it done? There are simply no excuses.”
Texas has the second-largest Latino population in the U.S. However, only 17 percent of Latino adults in Texas between 25 to 64 years old earned an associate degree or higher, compared to 34 percent of all adults, according to Excelencia in Education.
STC was one of the top-ranked community colleges in the country in awarding associate degrees and certificates to Latinos during the 2009-10 academic year, and is ranked first in the nation in graduating Latinos with associate degrees in biological and biomedical sciences, and engineering.
“We have been successful, but we can’t stop there,” said Reed. “We have to continue to find and create effective programs and initiatives that work for Latino and other students in order to assure our children’s and the state’s future.”
STC has led the way in creating access to education and providing different pathways and opportunities to earning a certificate or an associate degree for residents of the Rio Grande Valley.
Some of the programs and initiatives STC has implemented are the Graduate On Time Program, Achieving the Dream, and Texas Completes, among others.
The college has grown from an enrollment of less than 1,000 in 1993 to over 30,000 in 2012, spread across five physical campuses and a virtual campus, and is partnered with a majority of the school districts in Hidalgo and Starr counties that includes 15 Early College High Schools. STC offers over 100 degree and certificate programs, and is only one of three community colleges in Texas to offer the Bachelors of Applied Technology degree.
During the festival Dr. Reed and the SGA students had the opportunity to spend some additional time together to discuss their needs and issues that are important to the college’s student body.
“It was amazing how much the panel members have devoted into education Valley-wide,” said STC Pecan Campus SGA President Joe Lopez. “I learned that the impact that somebody can have on education can be life-changing and impactful to the Rio Grande Valley. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to have attended the Texas Tribune Festival since I would not have had the chance to do so otherwise.”
The SGA students also met with state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, who offered them a brief preview of the 83rd legislative session. Zaffirini is the Chairwoman for the Senate Higher Education Committee.
“The Student Government representatives were delighted to attend the sessions on public and higher education and are anxious to share what they learned with the rest of the student population at South Texas College,” said STC Interim Dean of Student Life Mike Shannon.
STC’s SGA representatives will attend the 83rd legislative session in the spring to meet with local and state senators and representatives regarding issues that affect higher education and the students at STC.