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EDINBURG, RGV – Salvador Contreras, director of the Center for Border Economic Studies of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, published a statistical report as part of the Border Business Briefs on K-12 education along the border.

Contreras focuses on a number of aspects of education such as earnings based on education level, enrollment, student performance and standardized test scores for Texas Independent School Districts (ISDs).

“Most people view education as an important social objective,” Contreras said in the report b. “Extensive research shows that Education affects (at minimum correlates with) quality of life measure like health, life satisfaction, and income.”

Contreras first analyzes the annual earnings of Cameron, El Paso, Hidalgo, Webb, and Nueces counties with different levels of education. The regional average earnings for individuals without a bachelor’s degree earns approximately $5,000 less than the Texas average.

For example, the average of the five regions for individuals who have some college experience and an associate’s degree earn $27,914. The state average with the same qualifications earns $32,260.

However, the regional earning averages out or earns even more than the Texas average for those who have a bachelor’s or graduate’s degree. According to the report, the regional average for a bachelor’s degree is $45,593 and the Texas average is $45,169.

“Part of the reason why Texans on average earn more than border counties residents is that the region is under schooled,” Contreras said. “Education appears to be an equalizing force at the Bachelor’s level and above.”

Contreras said Texas enrollment in K-12 grew at an average of 1.6 percent annually over the 2009 to 2013 period. However, the border region of Zapata, El Paso, Cameron, Nueces, Starr, Webb and Hidalgo counties grew at an average of one percent–with the exception of a 2.2 percent increase in Hidalgo County.

“Enrollment numbers suggest that the region is getting older relative to the state,” Contreras said. “U.S. Census estimates show that Cameron and El Paso County population of 5-13-year-olds fell on average one percent annually from 2010-2014. … Hidalgo County has the highest rate at 1.6 percent.”

Finally, standardized test scores along the border region fall below those at the national level. However, the Texas state average also falls below the national level. Contreras said ACT scores further support the case that the region needs to do a better job at preparing students for college.

Contreras said those with a college degree, in the border region, on average earn 70 percent more than individuals with some post-secondary education (PSE), vocational training or associate’s degree. In the region, some PSE is 15 percent less valuable compared to the state.

Editor’s Note: Click here to read the CBEST report on K-12 education in South Texas.

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