• March 8, 2024

Starr County Campus Undergoes Expansion

Starr County Campus Undergoes Expansion

Joey Gomez

RIO GRANDE CITY, TEXAS – The South Texas College Starr County campus is booming. More than 10 years since he first took the helm at the college’s westernmost campus, Campus Administrator Arturo Montiel, Ed.D., says his initial vision for increased technical degrees and programs are finally coming to light.

This year marks a huge expansion for the campus as a whole, and one that will finally meet the demand by students for increased technical programs like welding, electrician technology, automotive and Heating, Ventilation and Airconditioning (HVAC), he said.

In total, the Starr County campus will be adding more than 12,000 square-feet of additional lab and lecture space dedicated to technical programs, which have recently begun or are set to open no later than fall 2024.

“Starr County has a lot of folks who traditionally have never had access to these technology programs even with South Texas College in place,” Montiel said. “When I arrived, my mission was to make sure that we had more technology programs so that students would not have to travel to McAllen to get certified. After 10 years, it looks like we have arrived.”

For STC Board of Trustees Chair Rose Benavidez, the expansion of new programs has been a personal mission. Born and raised in Starr County, Benavidez understands how access to education in her community has yielded opportunities.

As a college trustee and President of the Starr County Industrial Foundation she is dedicated to creating jobs, infrastructure and higher education opportunities, Benavidez said the expansion of courses at our local STC campus is proof of how these partnerships have worked to benefit students entering the workforce.

“We are not just an institution that talks about the problems; we work to find solutions,” Benavidez said. “Our efforts are allowing students to earn a meaningful wage to help them transform their lives and this expansion will ensure we reach even more students from our Starr County community. We are the future and STC is where it all starts.”

At the forefront of expansion, the campus welcomed the start of an HVAC certificate program for the first time in its history in fall 2023 with a cohort of nine students who are set to graduate May 2024.

The certificate program is a milestone which is geared toward traditional students in Starr County for the first time. The program with at least three full-time faculty at the helm, offers seven courses completed in two semesters.

When the program’s facility expansion is complete, the new program will include 3,085 square-feet of classroom and lab space along with an 863-square-foot outdoor area for students.

The program is currently offering an HVAC certificate with plans to start an associate degree track likely within two years, according to program faculty.

“We all recognize that there are a lot of new businesses, and a lot of new development that will require huge demand in the HVAC field, so we hope to develop the necessary skills in the students to meet that demand,” said STC HVAC and Electrician Technology Department Chair, Jorge Martinez. “I’m sure we will be seeing even newer companies develop. By talking with the students, I recognize that while a lot of their goals may be to start working for somebody at first, most tell me they that want to develop their own business in the area one day. They are looking for a career path, and HVAC is on a lot of people’s minds in Starr County.”

The growth at STC’s Starr County campus also extends to the expansion of automotive, welding and electrician technology programs.

Previously housed in portable buildings on campus, electrician courses have now been moved into a 2,138 square-foot space, and will soon also house courses in solar and wind energy, including a composite-shingled roof to simulate real-world residential solar panel installations.

“The Electrician program now has a real state-of-the-art lab in a dedicated building, and just like the HVAC program, there is significant talk of industry demand and how we’re also  going to develop an associate degree program in Starr County,” Martinez said. “These are exciting times in our program, and we can fully begin to address industry demands and offer the same services that we have at our Technology and Mid-Valley campuses at Starr.”

Facilities for welding and automotive courses are also expanding. Up until recently, the campus utilized shared space for both programs.

A brand-new 2,800 square-foot welding program building was also open this spring, complete with a lab for welding along with computer and lecture classrooms.

And by fall 2024, the campus is also set to open its brand-new 3,216 square-foot facility for automotive technology, which will include two auto shop lifts, offices, lecture rooms and at least two new full-time dedicated faculty for the program.

“When it comes to the welding program, we wanted to ensure that we had at least two large labs with enough storage and enough space for the booths so students would not have to share while remaining completely available to students both on the credit and the non-credit side,” said Sara Lozano, STC dean of Business, Technology and Public Safety. “Our hope is that everything that you would get at our Technology Campus you would also get at Starr County. We want to make sure that we’re providing various options for students to access the technology, the equipment and the faculty that we have at both campuses.”

For more information on the various technical courses offered at South Texas College campuses, visit www.campuses.southtexascollege.edu.

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