New $2 million expansion includes welding labs as well as new additions for STEM education

An educated workforce only makes for a stronger community.

South Texas College, together with the La Joya Independent School District held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday morning celebrating the expansion of the South Texas College Higher Education Center located at La Joya.

In attendance at the ribbon cutting were STC Board of Trustees Graciela Farias, Paul Rodriguez, Gary Gurwitz, STC President Dr. Shirley A. Reed, La Joya Superintendent of Schools Dr. Alda T. Benavides, as well as various staff and faculty from the college.

“I have always said the better educated the workforce, the stronger the community,” said Trustee Farias, who represents La Joya on the college board. “We are all about opening up as many opportunities as we can for our students, but it’s not enough just to have the facilities. We need to make sure students take advantage of these opportunities.

“This happens through the work we do at STC and the work that is done here in La Joya by counselors and staff,” Farias said.

The expansion in La Joya comes as a result of the bond issuance passed by voters in 2013. STC contributed $1.6 million and LJISD contributed $400,000 towards the project that will provide state-of-the-art classrooms for STEM programs and welding workforce training.

New facilities include upgraded science labs, lecture classrooms and computer labs that will support STEM programs. An outdoor welding lab also includes 45 stations for students in order to provide workforce preparation for careers in welding.

“We want La Joya and all of western Hidalgo to know that South Texas College has established a higher education center,” said STC President Reed. “We are here for the community. We just completed the renovation of classrooms, computer labs, state-of-the-art labs for STEM, and we constructed a welding lab that will accommodate students seeking to learn state-of-the-art welding techniques.

“It’s a great option for students who may not want to go to college or a university but who may just be finishing high school and want to go to work right away,” Dr. Reed said. “This is another option for them, and not only for high school students but a large number of adults who may not have another chance to get workforce training.”

The teaching facility in La Joya is a significant alternative for local residents who can now earn these associate degrees closer to their hometown, and without traveling to one of STC’s traditional campuses. More than 40 courses are offered at the Higher Education Center at La Joya in order to fit students’ busy schedules. Students are able to enroll in a defined block of courses to provide course scheduling predictability.

The HEC also offers courses that lead to certificates in business administration, information technology and human resources. Developmental courses and popular science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses are also offered onsite.

“Today is a wonderful day for La Joya ISD,” said Superintendent Dr. Benavides. “Through our partnership with STC we are able to enhance the opportunities we provide for students, and that’s really what this is all about.

“Because STC was able to include us in the bond and make sure that we used those funds to enhance our labs for our kids, we know that our students are going to be benefitting from this for years to come,” Benavides said.

Students can register for these and other programs at or at any South Texas College location. A complete list of upcoming classes is available at