STC’s promise to make college accessible and tuition free starts next fall

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McALLEN — Graduating high school students will have more time off to focus on their studies with the financial weight of tuition lifted off their shoulders with South Texas College’s Valley Promise program, which essentially gives students a tuition-free education.

At a special announcement Thursday at the STC Student Union, officials from the college, city, foundations and school districts gathered to hear the historic announcement toward making college education accessible and tuition-free to all Valley students.

STC’s Valley Promise is a last-dollar initiative to provide students an affordable education toward an associate degree or certificate in an academic or technical program. The initiative covers tuition and fees after financial aid and other scholarships are applied.

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

The Valley Promise program aims to provide all Valley students a tuition-free education in the span of five years.

STC President Ricardo J. Solis said the most important element for economic growth is higher education and that the initiative is a game changer for the community since it will break down barriers and make education more accessible.

“Everything has aligned perfectly, even better than the eclipse next week,” he said. “We’re going to have a better life in (the RGV) and thanks to all the stars aligned here for South Texas for the entire Valley.”

According to a press release, at least $1 million has been invested into creating the program with funding coming from the Greater Texas Foundation, Ascendium, Rio-South Texas Education and Community Development Foundation, Educate Texas and Economic Mobility Systems.

STC Vice President of Institutional Advancement and Economic Development Rodney Rodriguez gave a breakdown of the details in the program.

After all financial aid and scholarships are awarded, tuition and general use fees are covered for up to 30 credit hours per year for up to two years or completion of an associate degree.

Students sign a backdrop after a tuition-fee initiative for high school graduates was announced at South Texas College on Thursday, April 4, 2024, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

STC offers over 130 academic and technical programs with all of them being program eligible.

Rodriguez added STC is currently working with Hidalgo and Starr county school districts with juniors and seniors that are ready to go into college.

“We’re going to be working with them to make sure that they have no barriers getting into college and that includes resources like tuition and fees, anything that they need as far as counseling, mentorships, anything of the sort,” he said.

The first step to be eligible for the program is for students to submit a promise pledge by May 15 before completing applications for financial aid.

Asked how many students will be participating in the program’s first year Rodriguez said, “We are predicting around 500 minimally because we know that it’s going to be much more. It’ll probably be over 1,000.”

Also at the event were Valley View High School students that took the pledge to attend STC under the new program.

Valley View senior Angie Santana said she feels blessed to have the opportunity to participate in the program.

“It takes a lot of weight off my shoulders, as well as the opportunity to just focus on my classes,” Santana said. “And I just think that I really liked the fact that I don’t have to worry about myself or my parents paying my tuition or having to worry about student loans or being in debt.”

Planning to study business, she said with her peers and herself coming from a low-income community, their biggest struggle and reality for most students is not having the opportunity to even attend college or having to drop out.

Victor Hugo De Luna Cardenas, a STC psychology student from Reynosa, is a STC student ambassador at the College Connections Call Center and said he has many students ask questions regarding tuition and fees who unfortunately drop out when they cannot cover it.

Cardenas said the program is a great opportunity and motivation for students like himself, coming from another country to study, to focus on obtaining a degree without the financial weight getting in the way.

For more information on the program, visit