A $117,000 grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to UNT will boost the university's efforts to increase college enrollment among first generation college students.
The award brings UNT to nearly $400,000 in grants received this past year to support the university's outreach efforts to prepare the next generation of students for college success.
The grant will support UNT's G-Force program, which is part of the Closing the Gaps initiative launched by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The initiative aims to enroll 630,000 new higher education students across Texas by 2015. As part of the states new Work-Study Student Mentorship Program, the THECB gave funds to colleges and universities across Texas with existing G-Force programs.
The G-Force program highlights the importance of college education to the future of Texas. Only 13 of 100 ninth graders will receive a college degree six years after high school, but 90 percent of the fastest growing jobs in the United States require some college education. The United States is behind seven countries in the percent of young adults aged 25-34 who have a college degree.
Patrick Vasquez, director of the Center for Outreach and Community Involvement at UNT, says the G-Force team members staff special offices in six local high schools called Go Centers.
"The general concept of the Go Centers is that they are a place in a high school where students can talk to their college-going peers about that experience," he says. "They are staffed by college students who provide guidance and support. The Go Centers dont specifically recruit for UNT. Our goal with the program is to boost post-secondary education overall."
Thanks to this grant, the G-Force team members will be paid to staff the Go Centers and mentor prospective college students. The students will typically work between 15 and 20 hours a week.
Troy Johnson, associate vice president for enrollment management, says, "Go Centers provide a pivotal connection between high school and university. With our trained UNT G-Force students in the schools, we help high schools reach more students leading them to higher education."
UNT operates six Go Centers. They are located at O.D. Wyatt High School and Diamond Hill-Jarvis High School in the Fort Worth ISD; Pinkston High School in the Dallas ISD; Denton Ryan High School; Aubrey High School, and the newest center at Decatur High School. Vasquez says UNT's G-force currently has 25 members, but the program plans to expand to 50 members by spring 2008. He adds they also are looking to add centers at other local schools.
Delia Padilla with the Diamond Hill-Jarvis High School counselor's office says the Go Centers are important to their students.
"Some of our students don't have computers at home, so they dont know where to go to find out information about college or trade schools," she says. "UNT's Go Center provides a place for students to get that information and talk with students about their options for life after high school."
Diana Reyna, a freshman education major from Fort Worth, was introduced to the G-Force and Go Center program at her alma mater, Carter-Riverside High School. She says, "Our Go Center was staffed every Friday with college students. They would come and help us with the paperwork we needed to fill out to apply for college and to talk to us about their college experiences. They knew what they were talking about, and encouraged me to be like them."
Even though Reyna's Go Center was staffed by another university, the information the center gave her led her to select UNT.
Reyna is looking forward to working in a UNT Go Center this spring. She says, "The centers helped me when I was in high school, and I can in turn help others. I know what the students need because I've been through this before."
Johnson says, "UNT has been aggressive in pursuing funding that will help students make college a reality. This funding is another piece of our comprehensive effort." Other parts of that effort include:
- UNT received two Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board grants, totaling $100,000, and created a summer bridge program to prepare rising high school juniors and seniors for college-level studies and, at the same time, to reduce the need for developmental education classes for new college students;
- UNT also received two THECB grants totaling $120,000 for a summer bridge program to encourage high school graduates who have not met requirements for college readiness. This program was geared to help students with the time and money cost of developmental classes and to equip them to compete successfully in higher education;
- UNT's THECB $50,000 grant to hire about 30 student mentors to get academically at-risk students back on the path to graduation. The program is designed to pair junior- and senior-level college students with students who are on academic probation or who are in danger of being placed on probation;
- UNT's Emerald Eagle Scholar program for academically talented students with high financial need. New freshmen receive free tuition and fees for eight semesters as long as they enroll for 15 hours per semester and maintain a certain grade point average. About 400 students have joined the inaugural class of Emerald Eagle Scholars for the 2007 fall semester.
UNT News Service Press Release
Rafael McDonnell can be reached at RMcDonnell@unt.edu.