EDINBURG, TEXAS (KVEO NEWS CENTER 23) — Congressman Filemon Vela (D-Brownsville) was at the Region One Education Center in Edinburg to announce a $5.8 million federal grant to expand the early college high school (ECHS) model in the region as part of the Early College Expansion Partnership in the Brownsville and Pharr-San Juan-Alamo (PSJA) independent school districts (ISD). The Partnership includes the two school districts as well as Educate Texas, a public-private partnership of Communities Foundation of Texas, and Jobs for the Future (JFF), a national nonprofit based in Boston.
The grant, funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund, is part of a national $15 million effort to expand the early college model, and the Early College Expansion Partnership was selected as one of 20 national i3 recipients out of a highly competitive pool of more than 700 applicants. The early college model is a bold approach that provides students with the opportunity to earn up to two years of college credit tuition free, while obtaining their high school diploma.
“Research shows that the fastest growing job sectors in the U.S. require more than a high school diploma. With this grant from the U.S. Department of Education and the work of the Early College Expansion Project, we can increase educational access for young people so they can pursue their dreams,” said CongressmanFilemon Vela (D-Brownsville). “The partnership of organizations like Educate Texas with national nonprofits and Texas school districts is critical to the immediate and long-term future ofeducation in our region. I am proud to support this grant, and will continue working to make the Rio Grande Valley a hub of innovative educational practices.”
“The Valley has become a model for innovative educational practices and I am pleased to be part of this important day in Texas education as we build upon the work already being done here,” said U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-Mercedes). “The early college model is a program with proven results that will help increase post-secondary success for low-income, first generation college-going students in the region. Earlier this month I filed the Fast Track to College Act because I believe the bill will further these efforts to help students across our nation.”
The “Fast Track to College Act” filed by Congressman Hinojosa is designed to increase high school graduation rates and improve access to college through the expansion of dual enrollment programs and early college high schools.
“With this funding, Brownsville and Pharr-San Juan-Alamo will be able to convert nine high schools and feeder middle schools to the earlycollege format,” said Dr. Carl A. Montoya, Brownsville superintendent. “The expansion of this program will significantly boost our existing efforts to close the achievement gap in the Rio Grande Valley.”
“Our district, in coordination with Brownsville ISD, is constantly evaluating the education landscape in Texas and our region,” said Dr. Daniel King, PSJA superintendent. “The implementation of educational models like early college high schools is critical to our ongoing work to foster educational success for Texas students.”
Key to the success of the early college model is the collaboration and support from local institutions of higher education. Brownsville and PSJA districts will further engage with South Texas College, Texas State Technical College, and Texas Southmost College to serve students in the region. Additionally, the University of Texas-Pan American and the University of Texas-Brownsville have already played significant roles in the success of this program and will continue to be important partners in this effort.
“South Texas College is proud to help shape the future of the Rio Grande Valley,” said Dr. Shirley Reed, President of South Texas College. “The opportunity to receive a quality education is more important than ever and the early college high school model is already making a difference in the lives of our student population.”