National report recognizes UT for increased support given to low-income students

Rachel Cooper

Raising UT’s four-year graduation rate has been a main goal of the University in recent years, and UT is working to improve this especially among low-income students, according to a recent report.

American Talent Initiative, a national group that works to expand opportunity for lower-income students, released a report on Feb. 15 recognizing UT for its increased four-year graduation rate and support programs for lower-income students.

“For every incoming student at UT, we use a predictive model to try to identify students that might be less likely to graduate in four years,” said Harrison Keller, deputy to the president for strategy and policy. “That predictive model influences decisions about student success programs and financial aid so that we can intervene and increase the likelihood that students will be able to complete in a timely fashion.” 

The University is pursuing multiple strategies to help lower-income students, including a focus on student program choices, better career placement programs, student support programs and helping students understand university expectations earlier on. 

“There are things we’re doing now in partnership with school districts and high schools so students much earlier in the pipeline will understand what the expectations are for UT Austin,” Keller said. “Unfortunately, many students find out when they step on campus that their high school program wasn’t aligned with the expectations of UT Austin.” 

Government sophomore Kyla Sampang said she didn’t think her high school prepared her well for UT. However, it would be hard for UT to tell students their expectations while they’re still in high school, Sampang said.

“I just don’t think that UT going into high schools would do anything just because the public school system is what makes decisions on those things,” Sampang said. “It’s just difficult to overhaul an entire system.” 

The report highlights the University Leadership Network, an incentive-based scholarship and leadership program, as another successful strategy. ULN member Mafer Flores, pre-social work sophomore, said the financial support and internship opportunities she receives help her stay on track to graduate on time. 

“(What I like best about ULN is) the fact that we have access to internships our second year of college and … financial support and mentorship,” Flores said. 

UT’s four-year graduation rate has risen from 50 percent in 2010 to 60.9 percent in 2016, although it is still short of its goal to reach 70 percent by this year, according to the report.