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$100,000 Texas Department of Agriculture grant to fund new dual credit program at UTPA
By Gail Fagan, Public Affairs Representative
381-2741
Posted: 09/17/2009
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The University of Texas-Pan American has been awarded a $100,000 grant over two years from the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) to fund a project providing new opportunities for South Texas students to earn college credit while still in high school.

The South Texas Academic Rigor and Talent (START) Project will provide high achieving students from rural high schools up to 150 miles from the Edinburg campus the chance to attend a summer residential program where they can earn up to six college credit hours.


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The START project, funded by a $100,000 grant from the Texas Department of Agriculture, will provide more opportunities for South Texas high school students to earn college credit hours at UTPA prior to their high school graduation.
The grant to UTPA was among $552,440 in funding approved for TDA’s Parallel Pathways to Success Pilot Grant Program. The Pathways initiative, administered by TDA’s Rural Economic Development Division, is designed to provide eligible high schools, institutions of higher learning and other similar organizations with funding for programs to give rural Texas students the opportunity to acquire workforce skills and training, and earn college credit prior to graduation.

UTPA administrators were excited about the additional educational opportunities the Pathways grant would provide.

“It will allow us to expand offerings to students in rural high schools. We are especially excited about the potential to bring in a small number of top notch students from areas 100 to 150 miles out who might face greater financial or travel obstacles in order to participate in a concurrent enrollment program,” said Dennis McMillan, associate vice president for Enrollment and Student Services.

Up to 20 students will be selected into the program each summer based on the following criteria: top 10 percent ranking in their class; a score of 22+ on the ACT; or have a 90+ GPA. Students will also be required to fill out University and concurrent enrollment applications and submit an essay and letters of recommendation to be considered. The START project will provide scholarships to cover tuition, fees, and room and board for participants, who will have access to all student services while on campus, including academic advisement, tutoring, and supplemental instruction.

McMillan said the Concurrent Enrollment program at UTPA, offered since 1999, provides students the unique challenge of taking college courses at the University campus where they can engage with University professors and students while obtaining high school credit at the same time. He said the program boasts a tremendous success rate.

“The program averages 1,000 enrollments a year with a passing rate of above 90 percent. Students who participate in college coursework prior to high school graduation tend to be better prepared to excel in postsecondary education, both academically and socially,” McMillan said.

For more information on the START project, contact McMillan at 956/381-2147 or via e-mail at dmcmillan@utpa.