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UTPA to host Vista Summit on education April 17
Posted: 04/04/2012
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The University of Texas-Pan American is teaming up again with The University of Texas System and The University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB) to bring together educational institutions and nonprofit organizations to brainstorm how to graduate more students in a timely manner.

Last fall, UTPA, UT System and UTB hosted the first UT VistaSummit on UTB's campus. Pictured from left to right are: Bruce Katz, vice president of the Brookings Institution; Wynn Rosser, executive director, Greater Texas Foundation; Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, president of UTPA; Dr. Juliet V. García, president of UT Brownsville; Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa, chancellor of the UT System; Micah Sagebiel, program officer, U.S. Education, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation; Jaime P. Merisotis, president and CEO, Lumina Foundation; Darren Walker, vice president, Education, Creativity and Free Expression Program, Ford Foundation; Pablo. J. Farías, vice president, Economic Opportunity and Assets Program, Ford Foundation; and Hilary Pennington, director of education, Postsecondary Success and Special Initiatives, United States Program, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

UTPA is hosting the next UT VistaSummit April 17, along with UT System and UTB, at UT Pan American's Haggar Building, 1407 E. Freddy Gonzalez Drive, from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

The focus of the summit is "The Rio Grande Valley's Role in Contributing to the Prosperity of Texas and the Nation by Expanding Educational Opportunities in South Texas with a focus on Reducing Time to Degree."

The conference will focus on exploring four programs proposed by the Valley educators to help more students graduate from college in less time: creating a cadre of counselors who will advise eighth-grade students through higher education, starting an academy of master teachers, expanding dual credit and early college high school courses and developing a four-year fast track master's program for students.

The Houston Endowment recently released a report that showed only 52.4 percent of Texas students who entered eighth grade from 1996-1998 ever enrolled in college and only 19.9 percent complete a certificate or degree program in six years. Among Hispanic students, the statistics are 40.9 percent and 11.6 percent, respectively.

UT Pan American's 2011 four-year graduation rate is 15.6 percent and its six-year completion rate is 41.9 percent. While the six-year graduation rate has indicated a steady increase in students completing their studies, more needs to be done to make sure all students earn their degrees without spending too much time and money, said UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen.

"We have one purpose at The University of Texas-Pan American: to graduate as many students as we can, as quickly as we can, and with the best education that we can provide them," Nelsen said. "By partnering with the UT System, our sister institution UT Brownsville, South Texas College, Texas State Technical College, and these philanthropic organizations, UT Pan American can fulfill that purpose while at the same time building a stronger, more vibrant community."

Scheduled to speak are UT System Chancellor Dr. Francisco Cigarroa, UTPA President Nelsen, UTB President Juliet V. García, STC Vice President for Academic Affairs Juan Mejia, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District Superintendent Daniel King, Texas State Technical College President Cesar Maldonado, The Education Trust President Kati Haycock, Houston Endowment Director of Research and Planning George Grainger and Greater Texas Foundation President and CEO Wynn Rosser.

For more information, visit the UT VistaSummit website.

Keep up with the latest news on the UT VistaSummit via Twitter #VistaSummit.