UTSA president outlines plans to improve student graduation rates

address by Romo

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(Oct. 3, 2012) -- University of Texas at San Antonio President Ricardo Romo today announced a comprehensive, university-wide initiative to better prepare high school students for the rigors of college and increase four-year graduation rates. In his annual State of the University address, Romo outlined plans for the Graduation Rate Improvement Plan (GRIP), saying UTSA's highest priority is to improve retention and graduation levels as it strives to become a Tier One research university.

"The GRIP is the most comprehensive, the most collaborative initiative we have ever produced," said Romo. "It touches every facet of the university. It addresses every stage of a student's career."

The plan includes programs to ensure that students who want to attend the university are prepared for the academic expectations of college and can avoid taking developmental courses in their freshman year. The university is working to recruit the most academically talented students in the community. This year, 50 percent of the entering freshman class came from the top quartile of their high school classes.

One initiative, UTSA Ready, is a pilot program that involves working with 250 students in targeted San Antonio high schools to prepare for the transition to a university setting. Students with low test scores are being given online learning tools and academic coaching support to ready them for college work before they arrive on campus.

UTSA also will also launch University College, a program in which all freshmen will be connected to junior and senior students who will serve as their mentors during their first year. The University College program will begin in 2014.

Additionally, Romo said an evaluation of the curriculum in every degree program is being undertaken to ensure it is aligned to a four-year degree plan and timely graduation. Research has shown that students who complete their studies and graduate in four years are more likely to perform better academically and incur less financial debt from college. UTSA is exploring financial incentives for juniors and seniors who are on track to receive their degree in four years.

During the address, Romo also outlined a restructuring of the university's research division to better align its procedures with those of Tier One research organizations, including providing greater service and resources to professors involved in research.

"Every day we make steady progress toward becoming the university this community needs us to be, a Tier One university," he said.

Romo also provided an update on the university's first capital campaign, which is pacing well to reach its goal of raising $120 million by 2015. Romo announced that $110 million has been raised in the past three years, including $17 million since the capital campaign was publicly launched in April.

"What this says to me is that the community supports us. The community sees this university as a key shareholder in the advancement of our region. People invest in us because they want to make a difference for the future," Romo said.

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The University of Texas at San Antonio is one of nine academic universities and six health institutions in the UT System. As a multicultural institution of access and excellence, UTSA aims to be a national research university providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.

UTSA serves nearly 31,000 students in more than 135 degree programs in the colleges of Architecture, Business, Education and Human Development, Engineering, Honors, Liberal and Fine Arts, Public Policy, Sciences and the Graduate School. Founded in 1969, UTSA is an intellectual and creative resource center and a socioeconomic development catalyst for Texas and beyond.