10:59 AM

Suited for Success: South Texas College Offers Exceptional Return on Investment

When it comes to higher education, students are more concerned than ever about the return on their investment (ROI); that is, the higher salary they can expect to make in relation to the amount of money they spend to earn their degree.

A 2017 report from CNN Money uncovered some startling statistics: many community college graduates are out-earning those with four-year degrees. In fact, data from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce showed that almost 30 percent of two-year graduates out-earned four-year graduates. That fact held true in a number of fields.

Some of the reasons are obvious. Those graduating with bachelor’s degrees that are not in demand (think psychology, English literature, or art history) are likely to earn less over the course of their careers.

Plus, many graduates of four-year schools incur a tremendous debt load, thereby reducing their ROI.

Community college graduates, on the other hand, often leave school with little to no debt. Students transferring from a community college to a four-year school are typically in a better financial position than their peers who spend four years or more at a university. And because most Continuing Professional and Workforce Education programs at South Texas College are targeted to the needs of the regional job market, students take courses specific to the field they want and that are generally sought-after. They leave school with job-ready skills. And when they need another certificate or license in order to move up the ladder, it’s South Texas College that offers those courses. Once completed, students often see a nice jump in pay.

Expanding Healthcare Careers

Take healthcare, for example. Every area of the field is growing, especially in the Rio Grande Valley, says Olivia de la Rosa, director of Continuing Professional and Workforce Education at South Texas College. The college meets that growing need with certificate programs in phlebotomy, billing and coding, health records, and pharmacy tech, to name just a few.

In 2017-18, students in the Health Information Technology program reported a 94% satisfactory score in the quality of preparation the program provided for the job market.[1] The salaries they can expect to make upon completion vary according to their specialty. Medical coding specialists, for example, can expect to earn anywhere from $35,000 to $60,000, while the median annual salary for a pharmacy tech in Texas is about $32,000.

Phlebotomy programs are run several times a month, and many students are ultimately hired by the hospital or facility where they did their clinicals, according to Elias Hernandez, program developer and coordinator.

Where the Jobs Are

As in much of the country, there’s been an ongoing need for skilled workers such as certified welders and machinists, says de la Rosa. With the next few years, two large companies are expected to move to the area, both of which will require welders.

To keep up with demand, South Texas College has a new welding facility on its Technology Campus. As is true for all programs, instructors have real-world experience working in the field or owning their own shops. “If they don’t have that experience, they wouldn’t be effective teachers,” adds de la Rosa.

Also in demand: licensed truck and bus drivers. With a pulse on business community needs, South Texas College runs classes in defensive driving, public transit bus driving, school bus driving, and truck driving as often as every two weeks. “We take about 20 students per month into the trucking program,” says Hernandez. “The need is great because the economy has improved, especially across manufacturing.”

Successful completion of the truck driving course leads to CDL (commercial driver’s license) certification. The bus driving course leads to Class B licensure and Passenger Endorsement, both of which are necessary to get hired.

The earning potential is solid, says Hernandez. School bus drivers might start out at $14 per hour, with benefits. Truckers can make as much as $90,000 working in the oil industry or doing long distance driving.

Truckers who choose to work at a local plant might make less, adds Hernandez, but they can remain closer to home to spend more time with their families, rather than being on the road for days or weeks at a time.

Experience Success

Mary Lou Henry is a real estate broker in McAllen and an instructor in the Real Estate program at South Texas College. She earned her license about 25 years ago and is now one of the area’s leading real estate agents. For students wishing to go into real estate, there’s no question the return on their investment at South Texas College is positive, she says.

“I’ve been teaching here about 20 years, and the majority of my former students are still in the business and have gone on to get a broker’s license,” she says. They wouldn’t continue in the profession if they weren’t successful."
Mary Lou Henry - Real Estate program instructor at South Texas College.

“The state requires six classes, then additional classes over a two-year period after sitting for an exam,” Henry explains. “Those classes, plus books and fees, might be a few thousand dollars.” As sales agents, graduates can make that back quickly.

“I’ve been teaching here about 20 years, and the majority of my former students are still in the business and have gone on to get a broker’s license,” she says. They wouldn’t continue in the profession if they weren’t successful, she notes.

Continuing Professional and Workforce Education programs offer the skills, knowledge, and opportunities to advance careers and experience success.