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UTSA accelerates student success, raises standards of excellence by intentionally serving Latinos

UTSA accelerates student success, raises standards of excellence by intentionally serving Latinos

MARCH 23, 2021 — According to “25 Years of Hispanic-Serving Institutions,” a new research report released by Excelencia in Education that is funded in part by UTSA, federally funded Hispanic Serving Institutions enroll 1.1 million more full-time equivalent students today than they did in 1994–1995, the first academic year that the HSI designation was recognized in federal law. At UTSA during that same time frame, the Hispanic student population grew from 35% of total enrollment to 56%, making it more important than ever for the university to focus on intentionally serving Latino students.

As part of its strategic vision to become a model for student success, UTSA has developed and implemented policies, practices and support systems to intentionally promote Latino student success and to remove barriers to graduation. These efforts are raising standards across the university, benefitting every student who attends UTSA.

“The HSI designation is incredibly special for UTSA and our community here in San Antonio. Higher education is a great equalizer, and our efforts to advance the success of our Hispanic students speaks to the role we play here in San Antonio and in Texas. We are committed to this important work and to ensuring that UTSA becomes a Hispanic thriving university,” said President Taylor Eighmy. “Our community needs and deserves a model HSI that provides the highest quality education to advance social mobility and economic opportunities for its students and community.”

“Our efforts to advance the success of our Hispanic students speaks to the role we play here in San Antonio and in Texas.”

From 2015–2016 to 2019–2020, the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded by UTSA to Hispanic students increased 42%, versus a 27% increase in the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to graduates overall. At the same time, the university’s Hispanic undergraduate enrollment increased 25%, and the percentage of Latino students with student debt decreased 6%.

“Hispanic Serving Institutions are rooted in opportunity, equity and inclusion. They drive their state economies by providing well-prepared graduates for the workforce and by training the next generation of diverse leaders,” said Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Kimberly Andrews Espy. “UTSA is intentionally serving Latino students to succeed in earning their degrees to enable prosperity in San Antonio, across Texas and throughout the nation.”

Over the past several years UTSA has intentionally created new pathways to advance Latino equity and success, including best practices and programming in retention, student success and financial aid as well as support systems for first-generation students, transfer students, Dreamers and foster students. Among its most impactful programs are its First to Go and Graduate program, its Resilience and Retention Advising Program and its Classroom to Career Initiative.

Established in 2016, F2G&G is developing an institutional culture at UTSA that actively recognizes, encourages and supports first-generation college students. To date, the program has served 1,403 students, including 821 Latino students (58.5%).

F2G&G students are placed in familias, where they are paired with trained peer mentors and faculty coaches who were also first-generation college students. These familias help foster a sense of belonging, increase engagement and encourage retention at UTSA.

From fall 2016 to fall 2019, UTSA saw a 17% increase in the combined graduation and retention rates, and in fall 2020 alone 13 undergraduate peer mentors offered more than 10,748 minutes of meaningful engagement with over 306 mentees.

UTSA launched its Resilience and Retention Advising Program in 2017 to engage high-risk students who are academically dismissed or denied admission into the major of their choice and at a high risk of dropping out of college. Students in the program receive concierge-level support that helps them transition to good academic standing and develop a successful path to degree completion. Participants sign a success agreement and commit to utilizing a minimum of two academic support resources available at the university.

To date, the program has served 818 at-risk students, including 496 Latino students (61%). Over its six consecutive cohorts more than 60% of participants were retained. In the two most recent cohorts retention reached 78%.

The advising program’s most significant improvement was seen among students who did not successfully complete their major declaration course requirement. In 2016–2017, 31% of these students did not return to UTSA and since launching the program that number has decreased to 20%.

Experiential learning opportunities such as internships, service learning, undergraduate research and study abroad are also particularly important in linking classroom success to life after graduation for historically underserved populations.

To expand these opportunities and enhance the knowledge students gain in the classroom, UTSA launched its Presidential Classroom to Career Initiative in fall 2018. The program promotes career-engaged learning, hands-on learning and career preparation.

As part of its strategic plan UTSA aims for 75% of its undergraduate students to participate in some type of experiential learning by the time they graduate. To accelerate these efforts the university is expanding its cocurricular and extracurricular learning options, strengthening its connections to area businesses, nonprofits and government organizations as well as facilitating workforce development in San Antonio and South Texas. It is also developing ways to assist students in articulating the marketable skills gained from participating in experiential learning opportunities.

⇒ Watch a video recording of the Texas briefing.
View Excelencia in Education’s “25 Years of Hispanic-Serving Institutions” report.
View the Texas briefing for Excelencia in Education’s report.

Sarita Brown, Excelencia in Education’s president, added, “The Latino population in the United States is young, growing and significantly enrolling in public institutions. Through data, practice and leadership, UTSA has embraced its important mission as a Hispanic Serving Institution and it continues—even during these challenging times—to actively build pathways for equity for its students, its community and our country.”

UTSA is a 2020 recipient of the Seal of Excelencia, a comprehensive certification awarded by Excelencia in Education recognizing the university’s commitment and ability to accelerate Latino student success.

— Christi Fish

UTSA Today is produced by University Strategic Communications,
the official news source
of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

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UTSA’s Mission

The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.

UTSA’s Vision

To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.

UTSA’s Core Values

We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.

UTSA’S Destinations

UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education .

Our Commitment to Inclusivity

The University of Texas at San Antonio, a Hispanic Serving Institution situated in a global city that has been a crossroads of peoples and cultures for centuries, values diversity and inclusion in all aspects of university life. As an institution expressly founded to advance the education of Mexican Americans and other underserved communities, our university is committed to promoting access for all. UTSA, a premier public research university, fosters academic excellence through a community of dialogue, discovery and innovation that embraces the uniqueness of each voice.