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UTPA chosen to pilot AVID Postsecondary program
Posted: 06/22/2010
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Students enrolled in the AVID program participate in an activity at an earlier event hosted by UTPA. The University is one of 14 institutions of higher education in the country to offer AVID at the college level.

The University of Texas-Pan American has taken one step further in making sure its students succeed in college.

UTPA has been chosen as one of 14 institutions of higher learning throughout the country to participate in the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) Postsecondary pilot program.

AVID is a 30-year-old nonprofit college readiness system that prepares underserved students - predominantly minority and economically disadvantaged students - for college. The program began preparing high school students for college, but expanded to serve middle and elementary school students. UTPA has worked with public school districts for many years in implementing and running AVID programs.

AVID Postsecondary is the most recent addition to the college readiness program and works with institutions of higher learning to help students perform better in school and graduate.

The pilot program officially begins in Fall 2010, when most of the universities and colleges selected to participate will begin planning how they will use the system.

UTPA, however, has already begun implementing AVID Postsecondary. It has been training some faculty members on how to use the AVID's strategies and initiatives and plans to incorporate it with some programs the University already has in place, said Dr. Karen Watt, an associate professor in educational leadership at UTPA and the director of the AVID National Special Research Projects Center.

"We're sort of jumping the gun at UTPA because we have the system in place," Watt said. "We would rather not waste a year. We want to get it started."

The University plans to dovetail the AVID Postsecondary program with its current initiatives, including the UNIV 1301 Learning Frameworks course all freshmen are required to take, Watt said.

Students participate in various activities at an AVID event UTPA hosted earlier.

The University will also train educators on using strategies, such as teaching Cornell note-taking system - a method of organizing notes developed by a Cornell University professor in the 1950s and used in many universities today - and setting up smaller study groups, in their UNIV 1301 classes, Watt said.

The AVID program at UTPA will also include tutoring and mentoring from educators and upper level students, as well as assisting students locate scholarships and other financial aid, she said.

"We've found that students, even if they've been through AVID in high school and middle school, get to college and they're still having some problems finishing and the whole point of AVID is to get students into college and graduate," Watt said. "The purpose of having AVID infused in there is to enhance what is already going on and to train the instructors so they can be better instructors."

UTPA and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board are splitting the cost of running AVID Postsecondary at the University. Each entity will contribute $20,000 a year for the two-year pilot program. The funding will pay for training faculty members, purchasing the licensing fees and materials to operate the program.

The University has seen an increase in retention and graduation rates over the years, but those retention and graduation rates are still not as high as the University would like, Watt said.

According to recent University statistics, the amount of UTPA freshmen returning for their sophomore year rose from 56.1 percent in 1996 to 74.3 percent in 2008. The percentage of UTPA students who graduated in six years rose from 24.7 percent in 1996 to 36.2 percent in 2003.

For more information on AVID Postsecondary, visit www.avid.org.