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$2.62 million Hispanic-Serving Institution grant to UTA for IDEAS Center, non-traditional student support

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Media Contact: Kristin Sullivan

News Topics: admissions, alumni, Arlington, education, research, student life, students

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The University of Texas at Arlington has been awarded a highly competitive, five-year $2.62 million Department of Education grant to enhance services for transfer and other non-traditional students and help more underserved students earn college degrees.

The grant will assist in the creation of a new IDEAS Center – for Innovation, Diversity, Excellence, Access and Success – as a resource to increase graduation and retention rates among Hispanic and lower-income students.

The funding will accelerate the University’s use of technology to provide support services to both campus-based and online learners and enable faculty research into courses that commonly pose challenges as these students advance into their majors. The research team will develop specialized hybrid tools and strategies to help students to succeed in those courses.

The grant builds upon UTA student success initiatives launched over the past two years to place high school students on an early path to college success and ensure that community college students take courses aligned with University bachelor’s degree programs.

UTA is the only four-year university in North Texas to receive a 2015 Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program grant. Ninety-six Hispanic-Serving Institutions across the United States will share more than $51 million in new awards. The HSI Program’s purpose is to expand educational opportunities for and improve degree attainment of Hispanic students. The grants enable HSIs to increase their academic offerings, program quality and institutional value, ultimately benefitting all students.

“As a Hispanic Serving Institution, we have a special obligation to make the dream of a college education achievable to all students,” said President Vistasp M. Karbhari. “This significant Department of Education grant sends a strong signal that we are on the right path to making sure that every student, no matter his or her background, has the opportunity to earn a degree from an institution of excellence to equip them for the rest of their lives.”

UTA was first recognized as a Hispanic-Serving Institution in spring 2014 based on the strength of the University’s undergraduate Hispanic enrollment, currently at 28 percent. The National Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities cited UTA as an Outstanding Member Institution in 2014 for its contributions to Hispanic higher education.

The HSI grant would support UTA’s mission of contributing to the state’s workforce needs by producing educated, degree-holding citizens from all walks of life.

UTA awarded more than 10,500 degrees in the 2014-15 academic year, including 214 doctoral degrees, in critical workforce areas such as engineering, nursing, education, business and many other fields.

The IDEAS Center will add to existing student support services such as the University College advising and academic center by providing student peer mentors and tutors who will be available to work with transfer students, first-generation college students and those who work while attending college. Digital tools will be used to help off-campus students access mentors, tutors and advisers through video conferencing, bringing critical services directly to those in need of them.

UTA will provide substantial matching funds for the new programs and will appoint a full-time project director to lead the effort and provide the necessary emphasis and focus, President Karbhari said.

Maria Martinez-Cosio, assistant vice provost for faculty affairs and lead principal investigator on the grant-funded initiative, said the IDEAS Center would be an important campus addition for non-traditional students.

“UTA is increasingly recognized for the high quality of our student support services, particularly to underserved student groups,” said Martinez-Cosio, “We know that often it is the human interaction and attention – whether in person or online – that can make the difference between success in college and departure without a degree. This grant will enable us to work even more closely with students who are struggling or need extra guidance to identify those barriers and help minimize them.”

Carla Amaro-Jiménez, a UTA assistant professor in the College of Education and co-principal investigator on the grant, said the center also would further instill in students a sense of belonging.

“We are creating an environment in which all students can learn and grow as they progress to graduation,” Amaro-Jiménez said. “We want them to feel like they belong, like they’re home when they come to school even if they don’t live on campus. We want to connect with them on a more personal level.”

Jennifer Luken-Sutton, director of TRIO Student Support Services and co-principal investigator on the grant, said the IDEAS Center would work hand-in-hand with established programs such as TRIO to expand the number of students served.

“We need to individualize and personalize our services. We need to be intentional about what we provide students,” Luken-Sutton said. “When we query students early, we find out what it is they’re struggling with and we can work toward a solution. We need to discover what those challenges are, whether it’s time management, homework organization, prioritizing or using clearer communication with faculty.”

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 51,000 students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second largest institution in The University of Texas System. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UT Arlington as one of the 20 fastest-growing public research universities in the nation in 2014. U.S. News & World Report ranks UT Arlington fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as a “Best for Vets” college by Military Times magazine. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more, and find UT Arlington rankings and recognition at www.uta.edu/uta/about/rankings.php.

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The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.