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Partnerships enabling federal agents to earn degrees at STC

Cost efficient, flexible initiative opens opportunities for higher pay and promotions

Adult learners are a big part of STC and federal agents are no exception. The college’s Career and Educational Pathways for Law Enforcement Professionals is designed to assist law enforcement professionals earn college credit for their academy.

Barrios has worked as a law enforcement officer for most of his life. First as a police officer and now as a Border Patrol agent with the Department of Homeland Security.

“It was kind of awesome to see that South Texas College had created a program with Border Patrol for a lot of us to go back and get our degrees,” Barrios said. “Then within the Border Patrol, I found out that we have tuition assistance.”

South Texas College’s contact for the program explained the initiative’s purpose.

“This partnership was signed last year in April, so last month was actually our anniversary.” Coordinator of College Connections Maricruz Hinojosa said. “It’s a partnership with FLETC (Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers) the agency that provides training for Border Patrol Agents and CBP Officers.

Even though Barrios started his career in the late ‘90s, he wanted to return to school to strengthen his skills and continue to gain promotions. Now that both of his children are adults, the family was able to crunch the numbers to make sure the price was right.

His experience has been positive so far and cost is what attracted him to South Texas College over other local options.

“This calendar year, I’ll be able to take seven classes, and still be beneath $4,500,” Barrios said. “And that puts me on the fast pace to complete my associate degree in the spring.”

CBP offers educational reimbursement up to that amount as long as the agent is passing their classes.

“I didn’t want to take away from my children’s childhood financially,” Barrios said. “I already had my career going, my wife had hers. I knew it could wait.”

Now with these incentives and his youngest child in college, Barrios can continue his own schooling.

“For many of us our career becomes our priority and it is no different for them. When agents/officers complete their academy their focus shifts and it’s understandable," Hinojosa said. “They put education on the back burner a lot of times. But, having an opportunity like this, where they get college credits for their academy, allows them to get motivated to use those credits and get back on track to complete their degree.”

Barrios is in the process of completing his Law Enforcement Associate Degree and he plans to continue to pursue a Bachelor's Degree in Organizational leadership at South Texas College. Both programs are available to students fully online. “We understand they have busy schedules and online classes gives them the flexibility they need.” Hinojosa said.



“Because of the fact that it’s online it makes it that much easier for me,” He said. “You have all kinds of time to work on your classwork. If you get home from work, if you’re working night shifts, you can take care of assignments.”
STC Student and Border Patrol Agent, Joe Barrios

Barrios said being able to take online classes has made his experience more manageable.

“Because of the fact that it’s online it makes it that much easier for me,” He said. “You have all kinds of time to work on your classwork. If you get home from work, if you’re working night shifts, you can take care of assignments.”

While he was already looking in the direction of higher education, a conversation with the program coordinator made the decision easy.

“Before I found out about the program they created for Border Patrol Agents here at South Texas College, I had already been looking in that direction,” Barrios said. “Once I spoke to Maricruz and she started giving me information it was awesome. I could show my wife that this won’t touch our financial resources as long as I pass my classes.”

He said he feels like he’s given the tools, time and support he needs to succeed as a student, including selecting his courses.

“They've given me the resources to succeed,” Barrios said. “They’ve always directed me in the right direction. For example, in the summer I have to take a math class. I haven’t taken a math class since 1993. And they pointed me in the direction of contemporary math, which is more in line with the management work I do.”

It’s the little things that make a big difference. We have a strong support system to keep agents like Barrios on the path to success.

“STC has been very good to me and the other agents too,” Barrios said. “That’s why myself and even guys who’ve actually left the Rio Grande Valley because they were promoted to another sector are still going to STC.”

Hinojosa added that the college is thankful for their service and is honored to be able to provide law enforcement professionals, like Barrios with the opportunity to obtain college credits for their academy. “These are college credits they can use to complete their college degrees.” She said.

Students can earn credits within six law enforcement pathways.

“Agents are grateful for the opportunity and we are happy to provide it. We are here to serve our community as well.” Hinojosa said. “Not only are we the only institution in Texas offering it, but we are a local institution right in their backyard.”


For more information and to view more detailed pathways information you can visit or reach Maricruz Hinojosa at 956-872-6749 or via e-mail at