South Texas College recognized as catalyst of economic prosperity for hardest hit students
New data released gauges STC student success, and their overall impact in the Rio Grande Valley
As a registered nurse, Miguel Trejo says he is relieved to have found peace of mind within a career that is always in demand.
Miguel, 32, says he has been working in the healthcare field since he was 20 years old. Starting out in radiology, he worked in various clinics before entering South Texas College in 2007 to obtain his degree in nursing.
Miguel said he entered the Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) Program in 2010 and graduated by 2012. Once he completed his degree, he said doors opened up quickly and he was able to find employment in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
“The beauty of what STC offers is that you get the same degree, the same two initials at the end of your name, which is an RN degree, but with less time,” Miguel said. “I weighed my options, and I realized that STC was going to be the better option because it was going to be a lot quicker.
“So two years of nursing school passes by really quickly,” he said. “I am not going to say it was easy, it was tough. I invested a lot of time and thought, and a lot of late nights, but after everything was done, it went quick. It was challenging, it was fun, and it was pretty stressful at the same time.”
STC has long been recognized as a catalyst for regional economic prosperity and social mobility for its service area in Hidalgo and Starr counties. A recent ranking by the Equality of Opportunity Project, which aggregated statistics on students’ earnings and their parents’ incomes of every college in America, found that STC ranked 8th in the nation with a mobility rate of 6.9 percent.
STC also ranks No. 1 among all community colleges in Texas with this ranking.
This means 6.9 percent of students from South Texas College who come from a poor family end up with high incomes, according to administrators at STC who analyzed the data. The mobility rate was obtained for STC by multiplying the college’s “access” percentage (52.4) and the overall “success rate” percentage (13.2)
“For us, this means that at the time they looked at our students, 52.4 percent were at the bottom fifth income group. This means the college gives access to the students who come from the bottom quintile. Out of those, 13.2 percent were able to move to the very top 20 percent of income,” said Serkan Celtek, Director of Research and Analytical Services at STC. “When you multiply these together, this gives you the mobility rate of 6.9 percent.
“If you look at all of our students right now, for example, and if you rank them in terms of their household income from the highest earning household to the lowest, and you cut that distribution into five equal parts, these students represent the bottom fifth of that,” Celtek said. “The people in the study were in that lowest 20 percent but in the time they were studied were able to move to the very top 20 percent of income.”
“The beauty of what STC offers is that you get the same degree, the same two initials at the end of your name, which is an RN degree, but with less time. I weighed my options, and I realized that STC was going to be the better option because it was going to be a lot quicker."
Over the years, thousands of students have studied at STC and entered or re-entered the workforce with newly acquired skills. The accumulated contribution of former students currently employed in the state workforce amounted to $325.4 million in added income, according to an economic study produced by the college.
As a whole, the economic impact of STC in its service area for FY 2012-2013 was $447.6 million in income, according to the report.
In return for the monies invested in the college, students receive a present value of $1.2 billion in increased earnings over their working lives. This translates to a return of $8.30 in higher future income for every $1 that students invest in their education. The average annual return for students is 23.9 percent.
“South Texas College really serves as a catalyst for economic development, which leads to regional prosperity and better quality of life for families,” said STC President Dr. Shirley A. Reed. “Through the college, students are provided affordable access to higher ed, whether they’re 16 or 65. We’re affordable, we’re conveniently located, we have very high-quality programs, and we have passionate faculty and staff committed to the success of each student.”
As the skillsets of employees rise, there is a corresponding increase in salary that follows. By developing their skillsets, not only do students receive the opportunity to earn more money, they become a more valued member of their respective companies, according to regional experts in economic development.
“South Texas College really serves as a catalyst for economic development, which leads to regional prosperity and better quality of life for families. Through the college, students are provided affordable access to higher ed, whether they’re 16 or 65. We’re affordable, we’re conveniently located, we have very high quality programs, and we have passionate faculty and staff committed to the success of each student.”
McAllen Economic Development President and CEO Keith Patridge explains the overall economic value of programs such as STC's Institute for Advanced Manufacturing (IAM), which offers customized training to upgrade the skills of current employees and new employees. IAM currently trains over 3,200 workers in Advanced Manufacturing annually.
“With STC, IAM, and the job-specific training that comes along with the skills development fund grants that STC handles on behalf of Texas Workforce Commission, it has really been the difference between our ability to attract new companies and not,” Patridge said in a spring interview. “As we bring new technologies and new companies in, what we see is, those companies are often bringing job skill requirements into the community that do not currently exist here now.
“What that means is that we have to work with the company to try to convince them that they will either be able to recruit the talent from somewhere else to come in, or we have to be able to show them that we can find or develop the local talent in order to do those jobs,” Patridge said.
In the end, Miguel Trejo said he ended up graduating with his Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) in 2012 and began working in the Intensive Care Unit at a local hospital for four years before taking a job in hospice.
“In my life, I am relieved to have found peace of mind with a great career,” Miguel said. “I can go anywhere with a nursing degree and obtain a very, very well paying job wherever I go. That was the main thing for me when I returned to college. I was determined to be able to provide for my family without having to work extended hours just to make ends meet. That was the main one.”