The Rio Grande Valley (RGV)—Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy counties—is home to more than 1.3 million people along the Texas-Mexico border. The RGV is young (median age of 30), Latino (91 percent), bilingual and bicultural. The region’s population continues to attract investments that have driven an economic transition from agriculture and tourism to health and professional services, education, advanced manufacturing and retail. This shift is why educational attainment is crucial to a generation for whom earnings and job security are connected to a higher education degree or certificate.
Strategies implemented over the last decade are shifting educational attainment for the region’s 18-to-24-year-old population. Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows the gap is narrowing between RGV and statewide 18-to-24-year-olds in high school graduation and some college or associate degree completion. RGV learners are within 3 percentage points of other Texas learners who’ve achieved a bachelor’s degree or further.
However, there is still work to be done to move students into and through college. Data from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board shows that, although higher education graduation rates for public four-year institutions of higher education increased from 42 to 46 percent from 2016 to 2017, they still remain below statewide performance.
Two-year IHE graduation rates did increase to 23 percent in 2017 after remaining flat at 16 percent since 2013, outpacing Texas by one percentage point.