Providing Post-Secondary Options for Low-Income Students in Rural Schools: A Study of a Rural South-Texas School District

Providing Post-Secondary Options for Low-Income Students in Rural Schools: A Study of a Rural South-Texas School District

Brian Uriegas (Stephen F. Austin State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2787-0.ch017
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As the number of students living in poverty continues to grow, schools are being tasked with finding ways to provide opportunities for life in the post-secondary world. Financial barriers often restrict these students from entering college or technical schools. In Texas, many schools are using the early college high school model to provide students with college credit at no cost to the student. Additionally, career and technical education programs coupled with the District of Innovation designation are allowing schools to provide students with work related experience and skills that will allow them to enter the skilled labor market upon graduation. This chapter explains the framework of these programs and how they are providing students of poverty with opportunities to be successful after high school, while facing their current financial struggles. Along with the benefits provided to students, the schools and communities are also feeling the benefits of these programs.
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This chapter will explore two programs related to post-secondary college and career readiness that rural schools are providing to students in poverty. Specifically, these two programs are career and technical education in cooperation with the District of Innovation concept, as well as the Early College High School program. Both programs provide students with opportunities for post-secondary success in the workforce or as college bound students. Additionally, both programs work to combat the cycle of poverty that many students face in rural communities. The career and technical education program provide students with work -related skills and experience that prepares them to enter the workforce and to begin to improve their financial situation. For students in poverty wanting to attend college, the Early College High School helps to alleviate the significant financial burden associated with college.

When working to address these issues facing rural students, it is important to understand the concepts of the career and technical education and Early College High School programs. Additionally, for the purposes of this chapter, it is also necessary to understand how Texas is utilizing the District of Innovation process to enhance career and technical education. Finally, understanding the process and benefits of partnership building (as it relates to the two programs) will provide relevant data and ideas for programmatic success.

This chapter will also discuss the successes and obstacles of two scenarios in which a rural south Texas district has implemented these programs. The objectives of this chapter are as follows:

  • To examine the opportunities that school leaders can provide to rural students in poverty through career and technical education and Early College High School programs;

  • To analyze how the use of the District of Innovation concept can provide the necessary component (local certification) necessary to expand career and technical education programs; and

  • To examine the benefits provided to all stakeholders involved (schools, students, businesses, and the community) by providing students with post-secondary college and career opportunities.



In 2017, there were 12.8 million US students living in poverty, which is about 17.5% of all US students (Children’s Defense Fund, 2018). For students of poverty residing in rural areas, those numbers are even more staggering. One in four students in rural communities live in poverty; and of the 50 U.S. counties with the highest rate of child poverty, 48 of them are considered as being rural (Fishman, 2015). As the number of students living in poverty in rural America continues to exist at an alarmingly high level, the need for schools to provide them with post-secondary opportunities has become increasingly crucial. For students in poverty, their being able to enter the workforce as a trained and experienced employee can help them to alleviate some of the financial burdens they face. For students in poverty wanting to attend college, finding ways to alleviate some of the costs associated with college can be the difference in their ability to attend. In both cases, addressing the financial constraints students in poverty face can be the key factor in ending the cycle of poverty for those students and their families.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Rural South Texas: For the purpose of this chapter, an area of Texas 30–60 miles outside of San Antonio (but applicable to many rural districts in Texas).

Career and Technical Education: High school programs designed to provide students with training and experience in career-related fields.

Post-Secondary Education: College or technical schooling after high school.

Texas Education Agency: The governing body for Texas public school districts.

Local Certification: Teacher certification based on work-related experience, training, and background knowledge rather than a Texas teaching certification.

Memorandum of Understanding: The agreement between the Early College High School and the partnering institution that outlines the duties and responsibilities of each.

Early College High School: High school program offering students college courses through a partnering institution of higher learning at no cost to students.

Partnering Institution of Higher Education: The college or university providing the college courses and other resources for the Early College High School.

House Bill 1842: 2015 Texas Legislative Bill that allowed for the use of the District of Innovation designation.

District of Innovation: Designation given to Texas school districts through the Texas Education Agency, allowing local certification of teachers by the school district, based on work experience and training.

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