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Excelencia in Education marks UTSA’s work in Latino student success with recertification of prestigious Seal

Excelencia in Education marks UTSA’s work in Latino student success with recertification of prestigious Seal

SEPTEMBER 29, 2023 — In recognition of The University of Texas at San Antonio’s commitment and ability to accelerate Latino student success, Excelencia in Education today announced the recertification of the university’s Seal of Excelencia for an additional three years. The Seal is a prestigious certification that recognizes the efforts of higher education institutions to create an environment where all students thrive.

The Seal of Excelencia is a waypoint in UTSA’s vision to advance social mobility and economic prosperity by becoming a model for student success and a great public research university. This intentional work is especially important in San Antonio, the nation’s seventh-largest city and largest Latino-majority city (65.7%). While the city’s population is increasingly becoming younger with a median age of 33.8, Latinos account for 36% of enrollment at Texas’ public, four-year universities. At UTSA, the undergraduate enrollment is 59% Hispanic or Latino, and about 45% of undergraduates will be the first in their families to earn a college degree.

“UTSA represents the future of higher education. It is producing Latino thought leaders who can strengthen San Antonio’s forward-thinking economy and address the region’s grandest challenges,” said UTSA President Taylor Eighmy. “Our student success strategies are intentionally aligned with our institutional destinations, and the Seal is very much an emblem of our work to prepare students for the in-demand jobs of tomorrow. With more than 93% of our recent graduates joining the Texas workforce, UTSA serves as both an immense workforce and economic driver."

The Seal of Excelencia assesses an institution’s success in serving Latino communities through enrollment, retention and persistence, transfer rates, financial support, degree completion, and faculty, administration and staff representation. UTSA first earned the Seal in 2020, after demonstrating the proactive implementation of strategies that accelerated Latino student success. Notably, Latino student degree completion has increased 32% at UTSA. Additionally, UTSA’s average time to graduation for first-time-in-college students has decreased from 5.4 years to 4.3 years over the last decade, enabling students to enter the workforce sooner and graduate with less debt.

UTSA was founded as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) and aspires to become a Hispanic-thriving institution, defined as a model HSI where all Latino students can excel. Over the last several years, the university has expanded its existing student success efforts while creating new initiatives to accelerate Latino student success while supporting all students.

“UTSA represents the future of higher education. It is producing Latino thought leaders who can strengthen San Antonio’s forward-thinking economy and address the region’s grandest challenges.”

A Focus on Affordability

Higher education is the primary driver of social mobility, and UTSA is committed to increasing access for all students to attain a college degree.

To create pathways for high-achieving students to pursue higher education without consideration to the cost, UTSA established its Bold Promise program. This groundbreaking tuition promise program makes college affordable for Texas residents from families with an annual income of $70,000 or less. The program covers 100% of an eligible, first-time freshman’s tuition and fees for four years. Currently, 1,847 students are in the program. For the past three Bold Promise cohorts, Latino students comprised 76% of the program’s enrollment, compared to 57% of UTSA’s general undergraduate population.

In 2022, UTSA expanded its Bold Promise program with the Promise-to-Promise partnership, a transfer agreement that allows eligible students to start at any five of the campuses operated by San Antonio’s Alamo Colleges District then transfer to UTSA to complete a four-year degree while having educational costs covered at both institutions.

Additionally, UTSA invested in the Bold Scholars pilot program in 2022 to help Bold Promise students engage more fully in the university experience by living on campus during their first year of college with cohorted academic and financial support. A dedicated team guides Bold Scholars in establishing academic and career goals, connecting them with campus support services and building habits and skills for success. In Fall 2022, 78.3% of UTSA’s Bold Scholars were Latino. These students earned an average GPA of 3.09 in Fall 2022, and they also attempted and earned more credit hours than their peers.

Retention and Persistence

In 2016, UTSA implemented data-driven advising practices such as calling campaigns to proactively connect with at-risk students and provide interventions to support their success. By focusing on the students that they could help the most, the advisors were able to maximize the impact of their efforts. During 2022-2023, UTSA Academic Advising held 48,383 individual appointments with students and had 201,869 outreach touchpoints. These proactive efforts have resulted in UTSA’s full-time Latino students completing their degrees at much higher rates than their non-Latino peers. Overall, there is an 8.1 percentage point lift in persistence from term-to-term for UTSA undergraduates who visit with an academic advisor at least once.

The Graduation Help Desk, a UT System grant-funded program, is a centralized support center that helps students resolve roadblocks to graduation, building on the efforts of other campus offices. Insights gleaned from analysis and work with individual students are improving university systems, policies and procedures for the benefit of all students. Since its creation in 2018 and through July 2023, the Help Desk has addressed 8,081 individual cases and served 3,275 graduates. Latino and first-generation students represent 59% and 46% of the total cases served. Through the Help Desk’s efforts, UTSA estimates that students have saved $4.3 million by spending less time in college.

Preparation for Workforce Success

UTSA is preparing students to excel and lead in their careers through its UTSA Bold Advantage initiative, which offers students experiential learning opportunities in four categories: Learning through Industry, Learning in Community, Learning through Technology and Learning with Initiative. These hands-on classroom to career experiences are strengthening students’ talents, enriching their personalized academic paths and creating civic-minded leaders who are tech-savvy and skillfully trained to flourish in the workforce. By 2028, UTSA hopes to have 75% of all undergraduates participate in at least one experiential learning opportunity by the time they graduate.

To match graduates to employers, UTSA founded the HSI Career Collaborative to increase internship and employment opportunities for all our students and alumni with the best companies across the country. Likewise, the Collaborative offers employers guidance around how they can change their thinking as they recruit Latino students. To date, 13 HSIs across the nation have joined the Collaborative, which gives students an opportunity to meet with more than 250 leading employers and build dynamic job search strategies through workshops and seminars.

Learn more about UTSA’s 10-year strategic plan, A Vision for UTSA.
Explore the many ways UTSA has advanced its commitment to student success.

Becoming a National Model

As UTSA has implemented strategies to promote student success, it has become increasingly recognized across the nation for its commitment to social mobility outcomes. Earlier this month, UTSA was No. 47 in the nation for social mobility in U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges Ranking and, earlier this year, was designated an Innovation and Economic Prosperity (IEP) University by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities for its commitment to economic development and student success. Meanwhile, UTSA is one of 21 universities nationwide with the HSI and Tier One designation.

It is also helping to lead the UT System’s Accelerating Hispanic Student Success through Servingness Initiative, which is tackling institutional inequities to accelerate educational success for Latino students and professional opportunities for Latino faculty and staff. Servingness is a concept that uses indicators related to (1) outcomes, (2) experiences, (3) internal organizational dimensions and (4) external influences to measure an institution’s progress beyond simply enrolling Latino students to actually serving them (Garcia, Núñez and Sansone, 2019).

“In higher education, student success is typically defined by measurements related to persistence, retention and graduation rates. It is important that in alignment with these indicators we also address the individual needs of our diverse students, including engagement and wellbeing, for them to thrive,” said Heather Shipley, UTSA Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs. “Our goal is to transform UTSA into the preeminent Hispanic Serving university in the country, a university known for its commitment to servingness and success in helping Latino and all students meet their educational, career and life goals. Doing so will have a large multiplier effect that unlocks career and socioeconomic opportunities that create value for our students, their families and our community.”

The Seal of Excelencia is awarded by Washington, D.C.-based Excelencia in Education, which was established in 2004 to accelerate Latino student success in higher education by promoting Latino student achievement, conducting analysis to inform educational policies, advancing institutional practices, and collaborating with those committed and ready to meet the mission.

As it has shared best practices in reaching Latino students and helping them achieve, the organization has spotlighted eight UTSA programs as national “Examples of Excelencia” for their ability to accelerate Latino student success. They include Keep Running With Us (2023), the M.S. in Environmental Science (2022), the Master of Social Work (2022), the M.S. in Business (2021), the Access College Program (2020), the Excel Scholar Program (2020), the Academy of Teacher Excellence (2012) and the Ph.D. in English (2011, 2012).

Christi Fish

UTSA Today is produced by University Strategic Communications,
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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.