Nine Texas colleges hold quarter of state’s enrollment
Strong focus on STEM education
PASADENA, Texas – With the start of the 2011-2012 school year right around the corner, the Houston area continues to hold a quarter of Texas' 735,536 community college students, with increasing interest among the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
The nine community colleges that comprise the Texas Gulf Coast Consortium of Community Colleges experienced an overall enrollment of 176,000 students last Fall, a 9 percent enrollment increase from the previous year and 24 percent of the state’s total community college enrollment, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB).
The Consortium includes Alvin Community College, Brazosport College, College of the Mainland, Galveston College, Houston Community College, Lee College, Lone Star College System, San Jacinto College (SJC), and Wharton County Junior College. The nine schools help contribute to a recent report by the THECB that the greatest increase in STEM education in Texas comes from the state’s 50 community colleges.
"As more people realize the value of a solid education in the STEM field areas, Texas community colleges are rising to the occasion with the development of accredited programs and strong partnerships with their local industry," said Steve Johnson, associate vice president for external relations for the Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC). "By doing so, this has resulted in an increase in enrollment of students who are taking advantage of the affordable, yet high quality, education that community colleges offer in these areas."
When Margaret Nguyen of Clear Lake, Texas, was considering a college, she based her decision on both affordability and quality of education. She said San Jacinto College was the two-year institution that led her toward her most recent achievement, admission into optometry school.
"Choosing to attend a community college was a great option to help save money and get an education," said Nguyen. “It provided me with a smooth transfer into university.” Community college proves cost effective; the average tuition cost for one year at a Texas community college is $2,173, compared to approximately $7,185 at a public university, according to the THECB.
The economic impact
Community colleges are continuously rising to the employment needs of the STEM field industries, which have grown three times greater than that of other areas in the past decade, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration. In response, there has been a 41 percent increase of students pursuing STEM education at Texas community colleges, compared to 16 percent at universities.
In addition, an economic impact study commissioned by the Consortium earlier this year shows that the nine Gulf Coast community colleges contribute a total of $507.3 million in income to the Texas Gulf Coast economy each year. The accumulated credits achieved by former Gulf Coast community college students over the past 30 years translates to $7.4 billion in added regional income each year due to the higher earnings of students and increased output of businesses. According to the study, taxpayers see a rate of return of 7.6 percent on their investment in Gulf Coast community colleges and their students, many whom were trained in a STEM field.
“At San Jacinto College, we focus on local and regional industry needs, which for us include the petrochemical and maritime industries,” said Dr. Laurel V. Williamson, SJC vice chancellor for learning and student success. “Both these fields require STEM skills and competencies and have entry-level openings for students with certificates and associate degrees. We work closely with our business and industry partners to ensure that the curricula within our certificates and degrees align with current industry standards and workforce needs.”
With STEM fields at the forefront of the Houston job market, the nine Consortium institutions have received strong legislative support for the development of courses and programs within these areas. Jobs such as medical laboratory technician, analyzer technician, and certified automotive technician may be obtained with an associate degree by an accredited program at a community college.
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for 50 years. The College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of more than 29,000 students in over 140 degree and certificate options, including university transfer and career-track choices. Students also benefit from the College’s job training programs, renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College. Your Goals. Your College.
For more information about San Jacinto College, please call 281-998-6150, visit www.sanjac.edu, or find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SanJacintoCollege.