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Academic and Career Options Abound

This article first appeared in the Valley Morning Star in Harlingen, Texas.

HARLINGEN — High school counselors recently received updates about academic and career options available for dual enrollment students and graduates at Texas State Technical College Harlingen.

The college’s enrollment of new students grew 11 percent for fall semester 2011, and College Information Office Director Dora Olivares thanked counselors recently for informing students about TSTC’s opportunities. Dual enrollment students from high schools in Cameron, Willacy and Hidalgo counties take tuition-free college credits offered via distance-learning hookups, adjunct instructors at the high schools, and courses at TSTC.
“There’s no better place for your students and graduates to begin higher education that leads directly to jobs or four-year degrees,” Vice President of Student Learning Adam Hutchison told 74 counselors at the TSTC Cultural Arts Center. “Right now, there are more technology jobs available in the work force than our graduates can fill. We emphasize versatile, transferable skill sets that lead straight into careers or academic plans that articulate with degrees at four-year universities.”
Hutchison said more than 95 percent of TSTC graduates entering technology careers are placed in jobs. Plus, the college is expanding credit transfer plans with universities so students spend two years at TSTC and then earn a bachelor degree in two more years. The opening of the University Center at TSTC in fall semester 2011 brought eight universities — the University of Houston, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Our Lady of the Lake University, Wayland Baptist University, LeTourneau University, the University of Texas at Brownsville, the University of Texas-Pan American, and Texas A&M University-Kingsville — to Harlingen. The Harlingen Economic Development Corp., located in the new facility, cooperates with TSTC and the universities.
The update became the first in-depth visit to TSTC for 22 counselors across the Rio Grande Valley with the Advise TX College Advising Corps, funded by grants from private foundations and businesses. It is headquartered at the University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Public School Initiatives with chapters at Texas A&M University, Texas Christian University and Trinity University. Each chapter recruits, hires, and trains their own graduates to serve as advisers in selected high schools.
“TSTC is well poised to serve our students because the college is prepared to retain students, the small class sizes allow students to receive individual attention from instructors, students are interested in the college’s majors, and graduates benefit from a high placement rate,” said Michelle Castillo, an Advise TX adviser for PSJA Memorial High School.
Sara Morris, an Advise TX adviser for Los Fresnos High School, said the tour gave her more information about TSTC programs designed to assist migrant students, and TSTC lets her students attend college close to home.
Mary Adams, director of financial aid at TSTC, said potential students with parents who are military veterans should apply for special grants. She urged counselors to help colleges and universities remind students about application deadlines for financial aid. For fall semester 2012, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) — the basis for most government financial aid awards — is due March 29. The Financial Aid Office at TSTC will hold College Goal Sunday to help families or individuals who bring in completed tax forms to fill out FAFSA applications from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 12.
“There has been a reduction in funds for some grants, but the sooner a student applies, the better. If they do not qualify for a grant, there are student loan possibilities,” Adams said.
Edna Quintana Claus, director of the Computer Information Systems Division and a graduate of TSTC, said that admission advisers and faculty enjoy speaking with high school students. She told the counselors, “I want you to consider TSTC as the first choice for your students.”

– DAVE RALPH

TSTC Harlingen

Special to TSTC Publishing

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