STC’s Valley Promise – Making College Affordable for All


South Texas College is making a promise to help more students in the Rio Grande Valley become college graduates with the historic announcement of The Valley Promise program, or La Promesa del Valle, which in the span of five years, will provide all RGV students with a tuition-free education. STC Image
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By Amanda Sotelo

South Texas College is making a promise to help more students in the Rio Grande Valley become college graduates with the historic announcement of The Valley Promise program, or La Promesa del Valle, which in the span of five years, will provide all RGV students with a tuition-free education.   

The Valley Promise is a last-dollar scholarship that covers tuition and fees after financial aid awards and other scholarships are applied. This initiative will help more students graduate without debt and ready to enter the workforce into high-demand, high-paying jobs through tuition-free education.

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Nuestra promesa va a cambiar la region. Our Valley Promise is going to change the region,” said STC President Ricardo J. Solis, Ph.D. “This initiative is a game changer for students and families in the communities we serve. It’s going to make education more accessible, breakdown barriers and transform generations. Thanks to our supporters and partners in education, we are bringing future prosperity to our region.”

Students celebrating the STC Valley Promise. STC image

At least $1 million has been invested into creating The Valley Promise with funding and support from the Greater Texas Foundation, Ascendium, Rio-South Texas Education and Community Development Foundation, Educate Texas and Economic Mobility Systems.

Within the program’s first year, The Valley Promise will offer eligible graduating high school seniors at participating high schools in Hidalgo and Starr counties, a tuition-free scholarship, including dedicated staff to help them navigate and succeed throughout their college journey.

“The Valley Promise is something we have been working toward for a couple of years now and to see it all come to fruition, is surreal,” said STC Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Matthew Hebbard. “Our goal is always success, and we can only do that by making college accessible for all. Anyone can be a college student, and The Valley Promise will help make that a reality. So many students and their families will benefit from this initiative and will kickstart a lifetime of success.”

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According to statistics set forth by the Lumina Foundation, an independent, private foundation that is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all, only 19% of Valley residents between the ages of 25 and 64 hold at least an associate degree, compared to 38% for Texas and 42% nationally.

STC, with The Valley Promise, aims to increase this number with its access to education, diverse pathways such as academic and technical education and more than 130 degree and certificate options.

STC Vice President of Institutional Advancement and Economic Development Rodney Rodriguez, Ph.D., who also leads STC’s Foundation efforts said The Valley Promise could not have been initiated without the support of STC’s local and statewide partners in education who also understand that a well-educated workforce is key to the Valley’s future prosperity.

“We are all committed to ending poverty, strengthening our economy and meeting the workforce demands of the region,” said Rodriguez. “We are grateful to our partners who believe in The Valley Promise and have allowed us to begin this program, and together, with the support of our STC Foundation, we will increase the funding we need to expand and grow this initiative to provide free education to all Rio Grande Valley students.”

Economic Mobility Systems (EMS) Executive Director Eric Ban, Ph.D., said his organization is empowering students and colleges like STC to continue making college affordable and accessible to all.  

“We are proud to partner with STC as they continue to provide innovative programming and workforce development in their region and throughout the state,” said Ban. “The proven model and strategies Anabel Romero-Juarez’s team at EMS has developed across many regions in Texas, serves as the catalyst for The Valley Promise, which will make college and college completion accessible to all.” 

Juarez, Ed.D. is the EMS director of Regional Talent Networks of Student Success and Workforce.

To be eligible for The Valley Promise, seniors must complete and submit the Promise Pledge by May 15, graduate from a participating Promise high school in Hidalgo or Starr County, be a Texas Resident with residency in the Upper Valley and be need-based as determined by the U.S. Department of Education after completing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or Texas Application for State Financial Aid (TASFA), must enroll at STC for a minimum of 12 credit hours and pursue a certificate or degree.

Victor De Luna, an STC Psychology student and College Connections Call Center work study and tour guide said the one question he gets weekly while leading campus tours with prospective students is, “How am I going to pay for college?” 

“Paying for college is something everyone worries about and for many, it stops them from either enrolling or completing their education, but with The Valley Promise, students will no longer have to worry about how they’re going to pay for classes,” said De Luna. “This is going to allow students to continue growing…STC is the place where we learn we can achieve anything, and The Valley Promise will allow more of us to get a degree. I’m excited for the moment I can start telling students about this during my tours and really seeing firsthand how this is going to change lives.” To learn more about STC’s Valley Promise or to donate, visit www.valleypromise.org

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