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RGV FOCUS promotes college graduation by re-engaging students

While colleges in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) experience higher enrollment than the state of Texas itself, very few students graduate.

Only 18% of residents age 25 and older in Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy counties have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

In 2018, in collaboration with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), Texas Southmost College, and South Texas College, we at RGV FOCUS launched an initiative to re-engage academic “stop-outs,” defined like students who have started university. , but have not obtained their diploma or certificate.

Dr Rodney Rodriguez

Whether it was because they lost financial aid, owed a college balance, or had personal reasons, like working full time or raising a family, these students quit college because they felt like they had no other choice. .

Our RGV FOCUS team identified approximately 2,000 Valley college dropouts and more than 9,000 “dual credit dropouts” who earned dual credit in high school but did not continue their education.

To better support students, our initiative has focused on strengthening outreach efforts in three areas:

1. Reverse Transfer – simplifying the process by which students who transferred to a four-year institution prior to earning an associate degree are transferred to community college to complete their degree

2. Adult re-engagement – ​​helping adult students with certain college credits and without having earned a degree or diploma to return to college and complete their education

3. Double Credit Stop-Out Re-Engagement – ​​guide students who had earned significant double credits in high school to pursue higher education if they had not yet made the transition to college after graduation diploma

Debbie Gilchrist, former director of student services centers at UTRGV, says that whether it’s an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree, a degree is essential for getting better-paying jobs and a greater economic stability.

“For our students considering returning to college, re-enrollment seems overwhelming, but it’s never been more important than it is now,” says Gilchrist.

Since 2018, RGV FOCUS and our higher education partners have helped over 400 college dropouts continue their education and helped over 700 dual credit dropouts enroll in college. The reverse transfer made it possible to double the annual number of diplomas obtained by the students.

Latest work from RGV FOCUS


As the RGV grows due to the economic development of new businesses moving into the area, the need for an educated and able-bodied workforce also increases. By earning their industry-based certifications or degrees, RGV residents can fill new, high-paying positions and secure a financially stable future.

RGV FOCUS expands stop work to engage more college and university leaders in partnership to ensure students are prepared to succeed in high-demand careers by helping them earn degrees and diplomas of higher education.

We have engaged our leaders at higher education institutions to implement initiatives to advance post-secondary education opportunities for our students. When all the colleges and universities in the RGV come together to provide local students with the opportunity to access higher education, everyone wins.

With more higher education leaders joining our RGV FOCUS partnership, students will have more options when deciding whether to transition between colleges.

“The industry does not require or consider a bachelor’s degree as the equivalent of skilled labor; they focus on technical skills,” says Cledia Hernandez, associate vice chancellor at Texas State Technical College. “While our region is vast, I believe that each of our colleges and universities play a unique and vital role in providing educational opportunities and that by working together we can impact more students.

More recently, RGV FOCUS was recognized for its work by Children At Risk. At the nonprofit’s annual awards luncheon on October 8, RGV FOCUS won the award for Outstanding Nonprofit Collaborative or Collaborative Program and Outstanding Child Advocate. We would not be able to do this work without our many partners and supporters, and would like to thank the many education, business, and community leaders in the Rio Grande Valley who are contributing to change on behalf of our students and teachers. .

Editor’s Note: The above guest column was written by Dr. Rodney H. Rodriguez, Senior Director of RGV FOCUS. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian with permission from the author. Rodriguez can be reached by email via: [email protected].

Editor’s note: RGV FOCUS is a collective impact initiative that was launched in 2012 by Educate Texas and the Communities Foundation of Texas. Its mission is to transform college readiness, access, and success in the four counties of the Rio Grande Valley: Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, and Willacy. The group says it has already achieved measurable improvements in educational outcomes across the region, and it looks forward to a future where all learners in the Rio Grande Valley earn a degree or credential that leads to a meaningful career.

Editor’s note: An image of a UTRGV graduation ceremony in Brownsville. (Courtesy of David Pike/UTRGV)


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