Rusk TJC Citizens Promise Program named Star Award finalist

The Rusk TJC Citizens Promise has been selected as a finalist for a 2019 Texas Higher Education Star Award, Tyler Junior College officials have announced.

The program has advanced to a selection committee, which determines the winners. All seven finalists and subsequent winners will be recognized during the 19th Annual Star Awards Ceremony to be held at the Texas Higher Education Leadership Conference on Nov. 22 in Austin.

“If the program is selected, it will be the first time TJC has been recognized for a Star Award by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board,” said Mitch Andrews, TJC vice president for institutional advancement and executive director of the TJC Foundation. “The program demonstrates a successful partnership to build a college-going culture. We are grateful to Citizens 1stBank, the Perkins Family Foundation and the community of Rusk for their vision in establishing the Rusk TJC Citizens Promise.”

Created in February 2014, the Rusk TJC Citizens Promise is the first program of its kind in Texas and covers up to two years at TJC for Rusk students who graduate in the top half of their class with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Qualifying students must also reside in Rusk ISD and must have attended Rusk High School for grades 11 and 12.

In his notification letter to TJC about being named a finalist, Texas Higher Education Commissioner Dr. Raymond Paredes said, “Your program and the students, faculty, administrators, and other staff who have created, developed, and carried it out are providing valuable services to Texas and its people by helping us reach our 60x30TX goals. The Coordinating Board and I commend everyone who has contributed to the program.”

Four years ago, the state of Texas launched 60x30TX, a higher education strategic plan to position Texas among the highest-achieving states in the country and maintain its global competitiveness. Its overarching goal is that 60 percent of young adults (ages 25-34) in Texas will hold some type of postsecondary credential by 2030.

The partnership to develop and implement the Rusk Promise program has resulted in increasing educational opportunities for citizens of Rusk while addressing statewide goals of 60x30TX, including educational attainment and completion of postsecondary credentials.

In the first year of the program, the percentage of Rusk students progressing to a college or university increased from 36.2 percent to 57.8 percent. Of those students, 46.9 percent elected to attend a community college.

Rusk Promise program participants consistently outperform their counterparts within the first time in college (FTIC) student population at TJC.

According to data from the first four years of the program, Rusk scholars cumulatively completed 196.94 semester credits, while the FTIC group fulfilled 134.65 cumulative semester credits; and students in the Rusk Promise program scored an average cumulative GPA of 2.57 as opposed to the FTIC GPA of 2.05.

Not only are Rusk Promise students performing better overall, they are also staying in college at a higher rate. When considering retention for the first four cohorts from year to year, Rusk Promise scholars have an average retention rate of 65 percent as opposed to the FTIC average of 50 percent for the same time period.

In considering program’s impact, TJC President Dr. Juan E. Mejia said, “TJC is a vanguard institution – with courageous leaders from our communities who are visionary and proactive about creating innovative programs to benefit our heroic students. I am truly honored to work with the finest faculty and staff, and this recognition as a finalist for this prestigious award validates our beloved institution and its mission.”

For more information on the Rusk TJC Citizens Promise, go to TJC.edu/RuskPromise.

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