UNT earned its third consecutive Texas Higher Education Star Award signifying its advances in meeting the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's Closing the Gaps program. UNT's Emerald Eagle Scholars program earned the award for the university's work to ensure UNT is among the leaders in Texas in increasing enrollment and the number of degrees awarded.
President Gretchen M. Bataille says this latest recognition illustrates that the Emerald Eagle Scholars program's commitment to helping bright yet financially challenged students earn a college degree in four years is important to helping Texas close the gaps. While other universities in the U.S. have begun similar programs, UNT's remains one of the few that takes a holistic approach of combining financial aid, academic support, campus engagement and high expectations, a nationally known formula for success.
"By giving Emerald Eagle Scholars both the opportunity to earn their college degree and the tools for success, we improve their lives, the lives of their entire family and our communities," Bataille says. "We help them show the world what is possible."
UNT's winning entry, titled Providing Access to Success: Emerald Eagle Scholars Program, was one of 51 nominees. Only six earned the award. The selection process uses rigorous, data-based criteria, and programs must demonstrate at least two years of successful outcomes.
UNT's Emerald Eagle Scholars program is open to academically talented students who are Texas residents with an adjusted household income of less than $40,000. The program provides free tuition and fees for four years in exchange for a commitment to maintain a 2.5 GPA, complete 30 semester credit hours each year and engage in university life by working on campus and participating in mentoring and other programs to ensure student success.
There are about 1,200 students in the program representing 95 different Texas counties. Seventy-three percent are the first in their families to attend college. This fall, an estimated 1,600 students will be in the program. Emerald Eagle Scholars return for the second year at a rate of 81 percent, outpacing the rate of various comparison groups.
UNT is among the leaders in Texas for the increased number of degrees awarded and increased total enrollment. Additionally, UNT has performed at the top in the critical areas of increasing participation and success of African American, Hispanic and transfer students.
"This is a campus-wide, shared award that recognizes the scores of faculty and staff who continue to make this program successful," says Troy Johnson, UNT vice provost and associate vice president for enrollment management. "UNT is very pleased with its record of achievement in the Closing the Gaps effort."
Since Closing the Gaps began in 2000, UNT increased enrollment by 28.3 percent – more than 7,644 students – which accounts for 8 percent of the growth in university enrollment in the state. At the same time, UNT increased the number of degrees awarded by 47.7 percent.
Programs receiving the Star Award are also required to demonstrate cost effectiveness. In that regard, the Emerald Eagle Scholars program is cost-effective for the state because of successful private fundraising efforts and internal leveraging of staff and institutional resources.
The program, led by Johnson, is responsible for recruiting, retaining and graduating a diverse student body that coincides with the university's vision and mission and Closing the Gaps.
Closing the Gaps is aimed at increasing the number of college graduates in Texas to keep pace with the demands of the economy and ensuring that all qualified Texas students have an opportunity to earn a college degree. One of the critical goals of the program is to have 630,000 more students enrolled in Texas colleges and universities by 2015.
"The Office of Enrollment Management has helped marshal the efforts of numerous faculty, staff and administrators responsible for the success of the Emerald Eagle Scholars program," says Wendy K. Wilkins, UNT's provost and vice president for academic affairs. "I am pleased the hard work of so many people at UNT has been recognized through this highly coveted award."
In 2008, UNT's university-wide Enrollment Management program received the award. In 2007, UNT's Student Money Management Center was honored with the award.
Ellen Rossetti with UNT News Service can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.