It’s the 20th anniversary of South Texas College’s Dual Credit Programs. Over the years, more than 106,000 high school students have participated and earned college credit. This has saved families more than $200 million with tuition-free college classes. The program features four options in which students can take college courses while still in high school. Many receive their associate degree weeks before their high school graduation. This then puts them on the fast track to their higher educational goals.
Rebecca De Leon is a Rio Grande Valley native, former dual credit student and the dean for Dual Credit Programs at STC.
“I participated in dual credit while in high school and completed 17 college credit hours,” says De Leon. “My mom was a migrant farm worker, so to her and my father, education was first— they didn’t care what I majored in, I just had to get a degree!
“When I started taking my courses at the university setting, I felt very well prepared for the rigor and knew what was expected, including time management and strong study habits.”
STC has one of the largest Dual Credit programs in the state, serving high school students, tuition-free, since 2000. The program collaborates with 70 high schools across the Valley and offers four options.
Students can follow a specific option that meets their career and educational goals:
- The first option is Dual Credit Courses for students who want to complete their core curriculum requirements. This option entails about 42 college hours, and students can start as early as 10th grade.
- The next option is the Career and Technical Education Program. CTE is for students who want to complete a workforce certificate so they can start working right after high school. Students choose from more than 40 workforce programs to earn college credit. This can count toward an Associate of Applied Science degree or a certificate in a high-demand technical field.
- Early College High Schools by design provide participating high school students the opportunity to earn up to 60 credit hours and/or an associate degree. In this option, students start earning college credit as early as the spring semester of the ninth grade.
- Meanwhile, in the Academy Programs, students focus on achieving associate degrees in the STEM fields, as well as business and criminal justice. The program has a 100 percent graduation rate and 100 percent transfer rate. To date, 12 students have received the Gates Millennium Scholarship to continue their education in bachelor’s and doctoral degree program.
The Dual Credit Programs at STC are widely recognized and have won multiple awards, including the 2012 Star Award from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the 2015 Excelencia in Education Award and the 2015 “Bright Spots in Hispanic Education” recognition by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. De Leon says these awards demonstrate how the school excels in serving its student population, which is approximately 94 percent Latinos.
“Our program truly makes a difference in students’ lives, especially for those who are first-generation. We have seen and continue to experience a college-going culture shift in our region,” says Shirley A. Reed, president of South Texas College.
All of the credits from the Dual Credit Programs transfers to two- and four-year public schools in the State of Texas. STC has more than 150 articulation agreements with universities in Texas and beyond. Students also have the option of transferring into one of South Texas College’s four bachelor programs.