“Upgrade” – San Antonio, TX

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Project at a Glance

  • Issue Area Social services, Workforce development/Adult education
  • Engagement Approaches Engaging traditionally marginalized groups, Partnering with residents, Surveys and data, Visioning/ strategic planning
Project Description

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Research shows that 65% of all jobs will require more than a high school degree by the year 2020. Nationally, college attainment rates sit at around 45%, while in Texas it is closer to 42%. In San Antonio, we hover at around 33%. 

Education impacts individual earnings five times more than any other demographic factor (US Census Bureau, 2011). A 2012 Pew Research Center study entitled, The Rise of Residential Segregation by Income and the more recent Distressed Communities Index show that the gap in median income between San Antonio’s poorest and richest zip codes is wider than any other two metro zip codes in the country. Disaggregated data from the SA2020 2017 Impact Report illustrates significant disparity in per capita income between Council Districts. With approximately 275,000 adults 25 years old or older with some college and no degrees and 169,000 13-18 year-olds in Bexar County, we have an opportunity to significantly impact generations to come. 


Increase college attainment to 50% by the year 2020. 

Project Summary

Launched in April 2017, Upgrade is managed by the non-profit San Antonio Education Partnership, in collaboration with several organizations including the City, the County, SA2020, the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, and SA Works, an industry-led strategic workforce development organization aligning education providers with private sector demand to promote economic mobility.  

The program targets adults who want to finish their degrees. Upgrade’s advisers work with individuals and employers seeking to upskill their employees by helping them explore options for the right college and program; providing guidance about financial aid, college transfers, and transcript evaluation; and connecting potential students to community resources such as childcare and financial planning. 

Upgrade is part of a 22-city network supporting adult learners; San Antonio is the first in Texas. Upgrade stems from the work of SA2020’s Talent Pipeline Task Force, which addressed workforce and attainment through a coalition of employers, workforce development leaders, chambers of commerce, and postsecondary education and social service providers.  

The task force developed a plan to better connect education and training to three industries: Healthcare and Biosciences; Information Technology and Cybersecurity; and Advanced Manufacturing, with a specific focus on Transportation Manufacturing, or Automotive and Aerospace. The task force believed focusing on adult learners could shift economic and educational outcomes. 

Engagement Strategies

In 2010, Former Mayor Julian Castro launched SA2020, a community-wide visioning process. Through a series of public meetings, online chat sessions, and surveys, San Antonians shaped a shared vision for their community by the year 2020. Nearly 6,000 residents, representing a diverse cross-section of San Antonio, were tasked with developing a framework, defining community results, and identifying measures of success.

Since the 2010 visioning process, Education has consistently ranked as the top community priority, with the result being— 

“By 2020, San Antonio has orchestrated one of the greatest turnarounds in education in the United States. San Antonio provides access to quality education for all students no matter where they live in our city. The city is propelled forward by an approach where students learn, teachers thrive, parents engage, and citizens contribute to meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century in a way that rivals any city in America. This San Antonio approach to education develops citizens who are thinkers, problem-solvers, and lifelong learners, prepared to tackle our society’s greatest challenges and proud to call San Antonio their home. “


In the first eight months of its work, 641 adults have made inquiries with 512 completing the intake form. Of those who have inquired 69% identify as Latino/a, 7% as African American, 9% as White, 4% as multi-racial, and 11% did not identify. Additional data show that 72% of adults seeking their degree are parents, and 58% have household income of $42,000 or less, while 27% have household income of $24,000 per year. Of the 512 individuals who filled out the intake form, 43% are actively working with an advisor to create their education plan, and 10% are currently enrolled in classes. 

Timeline of Project: Since 2017
Initiator: San Antonio Education Partnership
Additional Resources:
SA Education Partnership website
San Antonio, TX – 2018 AAC Winner: Presentation 
Local Contact/Link:
Micaela Rios
Program Director, Upgrade
San Antonio Education Partnership
Office: 210-207-4766
[email protected]

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