Tyler Junior College and its TJC Promise program have been recognized for increased results in helping rural high school students afford and excel in college.
TJC continues to be a state leader in the percentage of seniors enrolling from partner high schools, and the region also exceeds the state averages on overall post-secondary enrollment, due in part to the sustained focus of the TJC Promise program.
In 2021, TJC, along with Grayson College and North Central Texas College, were awarded a $3.1 million Greater Texas Foundation grant to pioneer a Texas Rural College Promise program model that could be helpful to other institutions exploring a Promise program in their region.
The Rural College Promise program aims to increase access to affordable college pathways and opportunities for living-wage jobs throughout Texas.
Last week, leaders from the three colleges gathered in Dallas to report their first-year outcomes, showing significant progress in undergraduate enrollment rates across rural North and East Texas.
TJC President and CEO Juan E. Mejia and Mitch Andrews, TJC vice president for institutional advancement, presented results of the TJC Promise program, which included:
• high overall enrollment at TJC for communities participating in the Promise initiative
• student success data in which Promise participants excel beyond their first time in college counterparts at TJC
• significant increase in student pledges to the TJC Promise program among high school freshmen
• successful fundraising to provide scholarships to students successfully participating in the program while attending the College
TJC was awarded the Rural Opportunity Impact Award from the Greater Texas Foundation, Rural Community College Alliance, and Economic Mobility Systems.
At TJC, where the TJC Promise is in its fifth year and monitors student eligibility from grades 9-12, the college reported a 37 percent rate of institutional enrollment at TJC for the region’s 2022 senior cohort.
Economic Mobility Systems data showed that, of 2,042 high school seniors from communities involved in the Promise, 757 — 37 percent — enrolled at TJC. Of that number, 275 students — 13 percent — participated in the TJC Promise.
Students who fulfill the Promise requirements receive support and encouragement from dedicated success coaches to obtain a college degree or certificate from TJC. The program covers tuition and fees for up to two years through a combination of federal grants and TJC scholarships as well as scholarships to specifically support the TJC Promise.
Mejia said, “The ability for a community to inspire and develop talent is one of the major cornerstones of a healthy regional economy. Community colleges serve in a central role in developing access to higher education for our rural students, many of whom we hope will remain in our area for their careers, creating positive change in their communities for generations to come.”
Currently, only 20 percent of East Texas high school graduates go on to complete a higher education certificate or degree, which is a critical requirement to securing additional highly skilled jobs that can provide families with social mobility and stability.
“These initial results are very encouraging as we work toward our goal of helping more of our high school-graduating seniors enroll and complete postsecondary degrees and credentials aligned to in-demand, living wage jobs,” said Emily Klement, Rural Community College Alliance vice president. “As a catalyst for regional economic development, these talent-building programs give us tremendous confidence in the future for our rural communities.”
“Congratulations to all for your outstanding work. GTF is so pleased that we have been able to fund this work, and we are so proud of everything that you have accomplished to date,” added Sue McMillin, president and CEO of the Greater Texas Foundation.