Established in 1993, South Texas College (STC) was the only higher institution in the state of Texas to have been legislatively created due to the compelling need for a community college to serve the 600,000 residents of Hidalgo and Starr counties who did not have access to postsecondary education. STC's five campuses are located in deep South Texas along the US-Mexico border in an area known as the Rio Grande Valley. The college provides a comprehensive education to a student population of over 20,000, 95% of whom are Latino and more than 87% of whom speak Spanish at home. Seventy-five percent of STC students are first-generation college students. STC champions "excellence based on evidence" by relying on the collective "voices" of students, STC employees, and the community to create successful and innovative programs that support Latino students.
The Valley Scholars Program was established in 1997 "to provide financial support, encouragement, mentoring, and campus-based work that helps academically talented and highly motivated students be successful in college." The purpose of the Valley Scholars Program is to help STC students navigate the college-going process while building their aptitude, confidence-level, and experience.
The Valley Scholars Program is instrumental in accelerating academic achievement among Latino students, as evidenced in its retention and graduation rates. Out of 45 students in the 2003 cohort, 73% enrolled the following year. Ninety-six percent of these students are either currently enrolled or graduated from STC. The retention rate for the 53 students participating in the 2005 Valley Scholars cohort was 77%. Ninety-two percent of these students are currently enrolled or graduated from STC. The 2006 Valley Scholars cohort consisted of 33 students, of whom 97% are enrolled or successfully graduated from the college. These rates reflect a high level of success among an underserved and highly underrepresented Latino student population.
This program was recognized as an Honorable Mention for making innovative and/or significant improvement in increasing Latino student success.