SA2020 Interim President and CEO Molly Cox and future Texas A&M University civil engineering student Andrew Salazar – futures so bright, they have to wear shades. Photo courtesy of SA2020.
SA2020 Interim President and CEO Molly Cox and future Texas A&M University civil engineering student Andrew Salazar – future's are so bright, they have to wear shades. Photo courtesy of SA2020.

This morning, we kicked off the city’s fourth annual Destination College at Café Commerce, while asking participants to put on their sunglasses – because our city’s future is so bright. The weeklong, college-themed campaign runs today, Monday, April 27 through Friday, May 1, and aims to make college top of mind for all San Antonio residents. SA2020 has the good fortune of collaborating with more than 25 partners to make this week happen.

In what is likely my most favorite week of the year, Destination College (also known as College Week) celebrates San Antonio as a college town and a college-going town. College Week seeks to elevate awareness of the goals outlined by the community in the SA2020 visioning process to increase college enrollment of high school graduates to 80% and increase college completion to 50% by the year 2020.

“As a community, San Antonio has prioritized the issue of education. It’s ultimately what will ensure a vibrant city for generations to come. Destination College is a focused way for us to connect students of all ages to a opportunities to achieve their college dreams,” Mayor Ivy Taylor said at the kickoff.

Mayor Ivy Taylor addresses the crowd at the 2015 Destination College kickoff event on Monday. Photo courtesy of SA2020.
Mayor Ivy Taylor addresses the crowd at the 2015 Destination College kickoff event on Monday. Photo courtesy of SA2020.

So, since I have the privilege of working with an organization who believes measuring progress is important, I would be remiss if I didn’t give you some stats around the goals of this week:

  • San Antonio high school graduation rates have continued to climb since 2010. In 2013, 85.8% of students were graduating.
  • In 2013, however, only 47% of San Antonio high school graduates were enrolling in college.
  • San Antonio has one of the lowest percentages of adults with college degrees (31.7%) of the country’s largest cities. This number is not increasing to meet the demand in the workplace or the SA2020 target.

Additionally, on average:

  • A high school dropout can expect to earn $973,000 over a lifetime.
  • Someone with a high school diploma can expect to earn $1.3 million over a lifetime.
  • A worker with some college, but no degree, earns $1.5 million over a lifetime.
  • An Associate’s degree-holder earns $1.7 million over a lifetime.
  • A worker with a Bachelor’s degree will earn $2.3 million over a lifetime.
  • A Master’s degree-holder earns $2.7 million over a lifetime.
  • A Doctoral degree-holder earns $3.3 million over a lifetime.
  • A Professional degree-holder earns $3.6 million over a lifetime.

(Source: The College Payoff, Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce)

We know, through the SA2020 Talent Dividend that an increase in college attainment by just 1% could pump $1.5 billion into the San Antonio economy.

The economic gains for San Antonio if college attainment is increased.

But at SA2020, we know that data only tells the beginning of the story.

At the kickoff, we heard from Andrew Salazar, a senior at John Jay High School, who’s an active member of the San Antonio Youth Commission representing District 6. I had the good fortune of meeting Andrew four years ago when he was a freshman. He’s funny, super charming, and charismatic. He’s going places. In fact, in the fall he’s going to Texas A&M University to study civil engineering. Andrew has participated in Destination College every year since it started.

Today, he spoke passionately about the desire to go away to college, and then bring his knowledge back to the city that has “helped him become the person he is today.” It is for students like Andrew that this week exists.

Andrew Salazar addresses the crowd at the 2015 Destination College kickoff event on Monday. Photo courtesy of SA2020.
Andrew Salazar addresses the crowd at the 2015 Destination College kickoff event on Monday. Photo courtesy of SA2020.

At SA2020, we firmly believe that opportunity is for everyone. And for a city like San Antonio, which is growing every day, embracing that statement is imperative for our future.

Last year, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wrote “The Case for College Signing Day,” telling other cities to “take note” of San Antonio. In fact, First Lady Michelle Obama took such note of our city that she launched the national Reach Higher campaign at our College Signing Day at the University of Texas at San Antonio last year. After leading students in a pledge to start and finish college, the First Lady told students “reaching a milestone like this means you’ve just raised the bar for yourself.” This year, cities across the United States are producing their own College Signing Days, and we know that San Antonio played a leading role in making opportunity top of mind for students across the country. You can see more about last year’s Destination College here.

First lady Michelle Obama leads students in a vow to enhance the future of education during her visit to UTSA to talk about her college enrollment initiative during College Week 2014. Photo by Scott Ball.
First lady Michelle Obama leads students in a vow to enhance the future of education during her visit to UTSA to talk about her college enrollment initiative during College Week 2014. Photo by Scott Ball.

This year, approximately 2,250 parents and students are expected to participate in Destination College events throughout the week – for College Signing Day alone we have students from 33 local high schools. But the entire city can participate by showing their college pride with spirit week activities. You can find more information by visiting www.iknowwhereimgoing.com. Plus, you can track the entire week’s progress on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram by following the hashtag #CollegeWeekSA.

Five ways to show your college pride for College Week.
Five ways to show your college pride for College Week.

*Featured/top image: SA2020 Interim President and CEO Molly Cox and future Texas A&M University civil engineering student Andrew Salazar – future’s are so bright, they have to wear shades. Photo courtesy of SA2020.

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The Culture of ‘You Can’: Michelle Obama to Celebrate College Week in San Antonio

Molly Cox

After a decade with SA2020, Molly Cox founded Molly Cox Consulting in March 2021. She is in the current cohort of The University of Texas at Austin LBJ Women’s Campaign School.