UT’s OnRamps brings students to higher level

Marina Vences

OnRamps has been allowing high school students to take higher-level courses at UT through dual enrollment programs for the past five years.

Similar to dual credit and Advanced Placement programs at other high schools in the state, OnRamps gives students a better idea of the time management and independence required to succeed in a college classroom. Students attend classes taught by high school teachers on UT’s campus in areas such as computer science, math, physics and English. 

“[The UT faculty wanted to] focus on eliminating the traditional misalignment between high school and university expectations,” said Harrison Keller, founder of OnRamps. “[We hope that by working with different teachers, schools and professors] we can dramatically increase the number and diversity of students across the state of Texas who could be competitive at leading universities like UT-Austin.” 

Julie Schell, director of OnRamps at UT, said she is proud of the teachers and students involved in the program. 

“[The teachers] are all remarkably committed secondary teachers,” Schell said. “They spend over 90 hours in training … to be able to radically transform their high school classrooms for their students.” 

Teachers are trained through the “Four Pillars of OnRamps:” challenging, college-aligned content; innovative pedagogies; technology-enhanced education; and teacher excellence. 

“[We hope to] create a more authentic pathway for students’ academic pursuits in college or university,” Schell said. “[We want to] gain the insight that college will require independent learning approaches that are very different from what is required for excellence in high school.” 

James Pigg, who teaches a computer science course for OnRamps, says that through this program he has learned skills that will help his students study and absorb material for the long term. 

“Your students will only try as hard as you make them try,” Pigg said. “Forget about setting a bar, just remove it and let them soar.” 

OnRamps is designed to reach high school students and will help nearly 6,000 this year alone. Keller hopes that this number will increase despite the intimidating initial impression of OnRamp’s staff and successful students. 

“Even experienced teachers tell us that OnRamps is challenging,” Keller said. “It pushes them way out of their comfort zones … but we hope they realize it’s worth it.”