“Receiving this award is an honor for UT Pan American because it represents our commitment to the students of the Rio Grande Valley in assisting them in reaching their goals of a higher education degree,” said UTPA President Dr. Miguel A. Nevárez. “Through the University Scholars Program we have been able to help many students attend college while in high school and encourage them to take a recommended curriculum to ensure their path to success.”
The UTPA University Scholars Program provides full four-year tuition and fee scholarships to qualified incoming freshmen, who take a rigorous college-preparatory curriculum in high school and perform at high levels in an Advanced Placement or concurrent enrollment program at the institution.
As a result of these efforts, the number of freshmen with Advanced Placement credit increased from 145 in 1997 to 389 in 2001, and the number of students in the concurrent enrollment program increased from 66 in 1996-1997 to 969 in 2001-2002.
UTPA was one of seven Texas higher education institutions honored with the Star Award for their programs that have made an outstanding contribution toward the goals established in the Closing the Gaps by 2015 plan – which has four higher education goals: to close the gaps in participation, to close the gaps in success, to close the gaps in excellence and to close the gaps in research.
"These programs represent the best of the best efforts to close the gaps in education that challenge Texas," said Commissioner of Higher Education Don W. Brown. "The Star Award is a prestigious honor for the people and the institutions that develop and carry out these efforts, as well as to the private organizations and people who support them."
Under the Closing the Gaps by 2015 plan, the University must increase enrollment to 26,047 by 2015. This fall, UTPA enrollment increased to 14,391 surpassing the projection for 2005 as set by the Coordinating Board.
“We are well on our way to meeting our 2005 Closing the Gap enrollment projection of 16,405 students,” Nevárez said. “Through programs like University Scholars our institution will continue to grow and meet the state’s goals.”
Baylor College of Medicine in Houston received the honor for the Premedical Honors College Program, a cooperative program between UTPA and Baylor College of Medicine.
The eight-year program offers conditional acceptance to Baylor College of Medicine upon graduation from UTPA. The partnership was established in 1994 to increase the number of primary care physicians in the medically underserved area of South Texas.
Also receiving the award was Lamar University, Monitored Probation Early Intervention Program; San Jacinto College-North Campus, Home Grown Teacher Education Program; Texas Woman's University, Nursing Success Program; The University of Texas at El Paso, Mother/Daughter Program; and The University of Texas at San Antonio, Texas Pre-freshman Engineering Program.
For this year's competition, the Coordinating Board received 83 applications, from which 15 finalists were chosen. Selection of the seven Star Award recipients was based on the recommendations of a nine-member committee made up of three Coordinating Board members, three Texas business and community leaders, and three out-of-state educational experts.