Friday, January 28, 2011

Possible Funding Cuts For Higher Ed

More than 30 legislators from across the state of Texas visited South Texas College’s Starr County Campus located in Rio Grande City. The visit was just one stop on a three-day, whirlwind tour legislators took of the entire Rio Grande Valley. The collective mission of both democrats and republicans in the crowd? To understand how their decisions impact impoverished regions like the Valley.

“It’s been a great experience touring the area,” said State Sen. Tommy Williams, (R) from District 4. “This is my second recent trip to the Valley and it’s helpful to see on the ground what’s going on and how the programs we are looking at funding and implementing will impact people’s lives.” 
Legislators heard from Starr County Judge Eloy Vera and Rio Grande City Mayor Ruben Villarreal about the impact higher education and workforce training has had on the county and city specifically. They also heard from Dr. Shirley A. Reed, STC president, how proposed budget cuts to higher education would impact the college and future prosperity in the region.

“Realistically, the cuts proposed total to more than a 17 percent reduction in state funding for our college budget, leaving no room for growth,” explained Reed. “And unfortunately, the formula for our funding has gotten out of whack. Our students are footing more than 40 percent of the costs for the college’s operation. We can’t put any more on their backs. Our Bachelor of Technology Program, the most successful in the state, may be defunded under these proposed cuts. More than 400 students have graduated from the program and made better lives for themselves. How can I turn those students away from this opportunity?”

STC is one of only three colleges in the state of Texas accredited to offer Bachelor of Technology degrees and STC is the only college offer two degree options to students. More than 300 students are currently enrolled in the program. 

“The region is also at risk for losing funding for the college’s Dual Enrollment Program,” she continued. “Parents in Hidalgo and Starr counties have saved more than $68M in college tuition costs since the program’s founding in 2000. Those are students that might never have gone to college if they hadn’t had the opportunity through STC. They are becoming doctors, lawyers, accountants and nurses. They are the leaders of tomorrow and building a middle class in our region. Without continued funding for important programs like this, the wealth gap will continue to grow. Starr County is the reason STC is in operation today and I hope I never see the day when I have to tell our constituents that their students can no longer go to college.”

Overall, the college has seen a 19 percent increase in dual enrollment registration for the spring 2011 semester. Currently, there are more than 600 students enrolled in dual enrollment programs in Starr County. Forty-two of those are taking advantage of the college’s Dual Enrollment Medical Science Academy, which was founded in Starr County and has allowed 63 students to earn associate degrees in biology weeks before earning their high school diplomas. Eleven students are currently enrolled in the first cohort of the college’s Dual Enrollment Computer Science Academy, which was also founded in Starr County in fall 2010.

“We recognize the challenges community colleges are facing and we are doing everything we can to fund them at a level we can afford,” said State Rep. Dan Flynn, (R) from District 2. “Community colleges are the best value in higher education we have and we all understand that.”

For more information about the current state of Texas legislative session visit

Photo caption: South Texas College President Shirley A. Reed talks with Texas legislators at the college’s Starr County Campus about how proposed funding cuts to higher education will negatively impact students and future prosperity in the region.

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