EDITORIAL: College-university agreements benefit many students in Valley

It has long been said that one of the best ways to address low incomes and high unemployment, as we see in the Rio Grande Valley, is through education. So it’s good to see educational opportunities continue to grow for people in this region.

Local public, private and charter schools show steady improvement, and the continued growth of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley benefits many students. Area community colleges also are helping thousands of students, not only with the courses, degrees and certificates they offer but with the valuable steps they are taking to help students transition from high school to four-year universities.

Community colleges are an excellent place for many students to begin their higher education, even if their ultimate goal is four-year or higher degrees that they don’t offer. Students usually save money by taking core and humanities classes there before moving on universities to begin their career track.

But it can be a gamble. Some students have found that their chosen university didn’t give them credit for at least some of their community college courses, requiring them to take the courses again after they transfer.

To reduce the chance that students waste time and money taking courses that ultimately don’t transfer to certain higher universities, local community colleges have been admirably active in building bridges with dozens of universities to assure that the course credits they earn here transfer to the other institutions.

And now that community colleges are gaining authorization to offer bachelor’s degrees, those links are being expanded accordingly.

South Texas College recently announced a partnership with Western Governors University, an online institution created by the Western Governors Association that offers degrees in business, health care, information technology and teaching. The agreement enables STC students to transfer their credits from the college’s bachelor’s programs to master’s and other programs at WGU. The pact helps assure that students don’t have to duplicate courses.

STC programs in computer and information technology, medical and health services management and organizational leadership are among the WGU master’s degrees that can be taken following an STC bachelor’s program in a related field

As an online university, WGU mostly serves working professionals who are pursuing degrees without giving up their existing jobs. The students, who average 35 years in age, are able to take classes on their own time, at their own pace.

WGU also enables military veterans to attain course credit for specialized skills they learned during their service, further reducing the time and expense of getting a valuable degree.

The traditional university model doesn’t meet the needs of many students who can’t stop working or who have other special circumstances. Those circumstances shouldn’t unreasonably limit a person’s ability to build a better future, and it’s good to see that institutions in South Texas and beyond are expanding options that help students improve their lives.