A look back at why the college was created & how it continues to deliver on its promise
As a young teen, current STC Trustee Rose Benavidez recalls traveling with her father, the late Manuel Benavidez, across Starr County looking for support for what was then known as South Texas Community College (STCC) from the community.
Her father had just been appointed as a trustee for the college, and in the summer of 1995, public acceptance for STCC had snowballed, capitulating in an election that saw voters approve three propositions that were essential for the college.
“When I was a kid driving around with my father I remember they were having classes in laundromats or they were allowed by school districts to have classes in old libraries,” Benavidez said. “I can recall my very first experience with the college was when I was maybe 15 years old. My father had just been appointed as a trustee at the college and they were going out for their first bond.
“Funny enough, the first bond that passed was when my father was the chairperson of the Board of Trustees, and this last bond (2013) occurred when I was the chairperson of the Board,” Benavidez said. “It was pretty amazing to see people come out and support that initiative, but far beyond the brick and mortar is the impact and the change in the people of our community and the whole Valley for that matter.”
The creation of STC sprung from the compelling need to improve access to higher education in Hidalgo and Starr Counties.
In the spring of 1993, as legislation was being drafted to create what was then known as South Texas Community College (STCC), the college began distributing flyers for the new institution urging students to “test their wings” and apply as early as possible.
In June 1993, then Texas Gov. Ann Richards signed legislation creating South Texas Community College. At the time, STCC was the 50th community college in Texas and the first in the Upper Valley. The college was created by the Texas Legislature, converting the former Texas State Technical College campus in McAllen into a locally-governed community college serving Hidalgo and Starr Counties.
“I had the passion, the commitment, and the tenacity to say ‘by God, we’re going to do this,” said STC President Dr. Shirley A Reed. “That passion and commitment haven’t changed. When you look at the level of poverty in the Valley, and the number of individuals who haven’t even had an opportunity to finish high school, much less go to college, and then you think about the quality of their lives, it becomes clear there is no end to the work that needs to be done in the Valley.”
South Texas College was created on Sept. 1, 1993, by Texas Senate Bill 251 to serve Hidalgo and Starr Counties. Gov. Richards signed legislation creating South Texas College and was the only community college in Texas to have been established by the Texas Legislature because of the compelling need to improve access to higher education in Hidalgo and Starr.
STCC opened its doors that September and classes began with 1,058 students. The McAllen Memorial High School band provided music for the opening for the college.
Since that time, STC has seen steady growth in its student enrollment starting with 1,058 students in 1993 to more than 34,000 students by fall 2017.
“We have seen a tremendous growth,” said Trustee Dr. Alejo Salinas, who joined the college on the Board in 1996. “We have grown so much. It is incredible. I can remember when I started with the college we maybe had 1,000 students now we are over 30,000. That speaks for the college itself.
“To see friends, family and ex-students come through our programs and to see them graduate has been a very satisfying experience,” Dr. Salinas said. “To hear the feedback from those who have come here, and how full of pride they are with the education they have received, that’s a very rewarding experience for me. It provides me with plenty of reason for wanting to be a part of this college.”
According to the Texas Workforce Commission, since the College’s creation in 1993, unemployment in Hidalgo County has reduced from 24.1 percent to 11.3 percent and from 40.3 percent to 15.6 percent in Starr County.
“From what we have seen, and just the impact on the education on the sheer number of students who are here, it translates not only to the numbers we have but also the number of families we have impacted because of students receiving their certificate or degree,” said former Trustee Graciela Farias. “Having the whole region benefit in such a positive manner because of what South Texas College has been able to do will continue for all of our students. The sky is the limit for South Texas College.”
STC offers more than 120 degree and certificate program options including associate degrees in art, science, technology and allied health fields. The college also offers 18 online associate degrees and certificate options through South Texas College Online enabling students to earn their degrees without even setting foot on campus.
Today, the college ranks second in the nation for total enrollment of Hispanics among two and four-year schools in 2015, according to Hispanic Outlook (HO) on Education Magazine. The magazine published its “Top 100 Colleges and Universities for Hispanics” with data collected from the 2015 school year. In that issue, numerous programs at STC placed among the top-10 in schools across the nation for degrees awarded to Hispanics.
STC is also one of only three community colleges in Texas accredited to offer applied baccalaureate degrees. A Bachelor of Applied Technology (BAT) degree in Technology Management, Computer and Information Technologies, Medical and Health Services Management and a degree in Organizational Leadership may all be attained at STC.
“It has been tremendously gratifying to see the outstanding workforce development programs support local industry, and our local workforce in being better trained in areas like manufacturing and technologically advanced fields,” said Trustee Paul Rodriguez. “Employees are reaching higher pay scales and employers are providing better jobs. I believe the future will see more college degrees, more critical partnerships with other colleges and universities and a center for manufacturing and industrial development for the entire border region.”