UT helps create Texas OnCourse to provide resources for high school students, educators

Anna Lassmann

In an effort to address a lack of college and career readiness, UT is rolling out its college and career preparatory program, Texas OnCourse, starting with the Texas OnCourse Academy which launched on Sept. 21.

Texas OnCourse is a year-old initiative commissioned by the Texas Legislature. It pools together resources about careers and education into one website consisting of 28 modules that counselors and advisers can use to provide students college and career guidance, said Katie Stone, communications coordinator for Texas OnCourse. 

“The average high school counselor or adviser has an unmanageably large caseload — over 450 students,” Stone said. “This means they need a resource that is comprehensive, intuitive and free so they can access high-quality information about preparing all their students early for college and career options.”

The project originated through the 84th Texas legislative session in partnership with UT-Austin and Gov. Greg Abbott’s Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative, created in 2016. Leaders from three agencies making up the initiative — the Texas Education Agency, the Texas Workforce Commission and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board — met with workforce and education leaders from April to June 2016 to discuss what was wrong with career and college preparation for high school students.

“(The Texas Legislature was) interested in a next generation initiative to improve college and career advising, and that ended up turning into enabling legislation and funding from the Legislature for what we now call Texas OnCourse,” said Harrison Keller, UT deputy to the president for strategy and policy and founder of the program.

The agencies learned that leaders were concerned about affordability of higher education, availability of education services for Texas veterans and promotion of career technical education and careers in science, technology, engineering and math, leading to the creation of the program.

Texas OnCourse recently launched Middle Galaxy, a program similar to OnCourse Academy but geared toward middle school students.

“Middle Galaxy is designed for middle school students to explore career opportunities, requisite knowledge and skills needed for those career possibilities,” Stone said.

Rachel Breunig, an environmental science and geology sophomore, said she was fortunate to have college and career counselors in high school who helped her apply to colleges. However, she said Texas OnCourse will be a good resource for future high school students.

“For high school students who aren’t as fortunate to have an involved college counselor like I did, (Texas OnCourse) could definitely help them see all of their post-high school options,” Breunig said.