An unprecedented statewide campaign designed to help meet the state's mandate to enroll 500,000 Texans in higher education by the year 2015 has been spreading through various regions of the state since the "College for Texans" campaign was unveiled in Austin Tuesday.
The Rio Grande Valley initiative - which was held Thursday, Nov. 14 at South Texas ISD Biblioteca las Americas in Mercedes -- brought together students, parents, educators, elected officials, community representatives, school officials and the area higher education institutions to pledge to do their part in supporting education and nurturing Valley students.
"We have to work together to get as many students into higher education as possible," said Dr. Shirley A. Reed, president of South Texas Community College District. "We pledge to work with all of you to assure every child has an opportunity, and we ask you to join in making a commitment to every child."
To symbolize that goal, the children present were given small pots with the state's campaign slogan "Education. Go Get It." printed on them and the tools needed to grow a plant within the pot. The participants then signed a letter in support of the campaign and pledging to do their part.
The campaign was mandated by Senate Bill 573 of the 2001 Texas legislature and is part of the Closing the Gaps by 2015 campaign. Valley universities and colleges have been working with communities and schools to encourage and promote higher education and have had some success with all the institutions showing increases in enrollment this fall semester.
"The coordinated, statewide campaign serves to strengthen the work that has already begun," said Julia Benitez Sullivan, chair of the Rio Grande Valley launch planning committee. "STCC, TSTC, Region One, Tech Prep, UT Brownsville/Texas Southmost College, GEAR UP, and The University of Texas-Pan American are working together to promote success and increase higher education participation statewide."
The campaign is a key strategy in the state's Closing the Gaps by 2015 education plan, which was adopted by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in October 2000 and has become widely accepted throughout the state. The plan calls for closing student participation and success gaps within the state.
Currently the participation rate in Texas represents 4.9 percent of the state's population. This rate is lower than New York (5.6 percent), California (6.1 percent) Michigan (5.7 percent) and Illinois (6 percent) and is lower than the state's rate a decade ago.