Our Community

The Rio Grande Valley (RGV) has long been a fertile ground for economic opportunity. As a leading citrus producer with access to the Gulf of Mexico, the region has traditionally relied on farming and tourism. Now, it’s one of the fastest-growing regions in the U.S., home to more than 1.3 million people along the Texas-Mexico border. Comprised of Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy counties, the RGV is young (median age is 30), Latino (91 percent), bilingual and bicultural.

The region’s population continues to attract investments that have driven an economic transition from an agriculture-based economy to one that focuses on health and professional services, education, advanced manufacturing and retail. This shift is part of the reason why educational achievement is crucial. For this generation, earnings and job security are connected to a higher education degree or certificate. Businesses also seek candidates with these qualifications, and value their contributions. A well-educated workforce will help local businesses, people and the region as a whole continue to thrive.

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Removing Barriers to Achieving Equity

We are achieving great progress in our work to improve educational attainment—and it’s the students, educators and entire community of the Rio Grande Valley who deserve the credit. Because of their hard work, we’re seeing rising scores in almost every category measured by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). Before RGV FOCUS was formed, the region was scoring below State of Texas averages in a number of educational goals set by the TEA. Over the past decade, the strategies we have implemented through RGV FOCUS have helped create a shift in the right direction.
 
Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows the gap is narrowing between RGV and statewide 18-to-24-year-olds, with more local students graduating from high school, attending college, and completing an associate’s degree or higher. RGV learners currently meet or exceed state averages in 9 out of the 11 goals outlined in our 2017 scorecard.

However, there is still work to be done to improve college readiness, enrollment and graduation. 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 institutions of higher learning (IHE) graduation rates did increase to 23 percent in 2017 after remaining flat at 16 percent since 2013, outpacing Texas by one percentage point. It’s exciting to see our students reaching new milestones in educational attainment, and we are confident these scores will continue to rise with support from RGV FOCUS and our community.