College attainable for all

September 26, 2017

Dr. Mike Flores

Since 1985, students have come to Palo Alto College to fulfill their educational dreams of earning a degree, completing a certificate, earning transferrable credits, or receiving specialized training. What we do each day revolves around the best interests of our students, and this purpose has held true since we opened our doors more than 30 years ago.

Beginning as the first public higher education option available south of U.S. 90, Palo Alto College continues to uphold its mission “to inspire, empower, and educate our community for success.” A significant number of our 10,000 students are often the first in their families to attend a college or university, or they may have never considered college as an option because of family obligations, work, time constraints or financial challenges.

As champions for access, our focus is to ensure our community has the ability to pursue their education without worrying about the barriers that many of our students face when pursuing a college education, and we have established innovative programs to help eliminate some of those barriers, such as early college high schools.

Early College High Schools (ECHS) are partnership programs between area school districts and an accredited college or university that allow students to simultaneously earn a high school diploma and up to 60 college credit hours toward an associate or bachelor degree — all at no cost to the student.

Since 2014, Palo Alto College has launched seven ECHS partnerships: A.C.E.S. Early College High School with Southside ISD; Zacharias Early College Leadership Academy with Somerset, Poteet and Lytle ISDs; Frank L. Madla Early College High School with New Frontiers Charter School; S.T.E.M. Early College High School with Harlandale ISD; South San Antonio Early College Academy with South San Antonio ISD; and Kennedy High School and Memorial High School with Edgewood ISD.

Palo Alto College’s first group of graduating ECHS students will cross the stage in May 2018, many earning an associate degree in fields such as accounting, biology or engineering before receiving their high school diploma. The commitment of these soon-to-be college graduates is to be applauded and commended by all. Just as our founding members believed in educational attainment for all, we will continue their legacy and ensure all students fulfill their hopes and aspirations of achieving a college degree.

This column by Dr. Mike Flores, President of Palo Alto College, was originally published the Southside Reporter and on To view the original publication, click here.