Marcus Connolly, The Paisano
Since the publication of the UTSA GRIP (Graduation Rate Improvement Plan) in 2011, the university has found ways of attracting more academically distinguished high school seniors to consider UTSA as their college of choice.
Stated in the GRIP, “Historically, a significant number of our incoming students have not possessed adequate academic skills to ensure success in college, as measured by high school class rank and/or scores on standardized examinations.” UTSA has since raised the admissions standards, including the required SAT and ACT scores.
Since 2008, admission to UTSA has been guaranteed to the graduates in the top quartile of their high school class. Applicants who have graduated in the second quarter of their high school class are now required to have an SAT score of 1100 or higher or an ACT score of 24 or higher for guaranteed admission; this is an increase from the prior minimum requirement of SAT scores of 960 and ACT scores of 20.
The GRIP states that, “Beginning in 2010-11, in coordination with our raised admission standards, UTSA began a formal program to actively recruit freshmen who graduated in the top quartile of their high school classes across the state and region.”
The percentage of first-time freshmen that enrolled in UTSA and graduated in the top quarter of their high school has risen from 43 percent in 2011 to 73 percent in 2013 and 58 percent for the current freshman cohort. In the same time frame, the percentage of first-time freshman who enrolled in UTSA and graduated in the bottom half of their high school decreased from 17 percent to 7 percent.
One way UTSA plans on enticing top-quality high school graduates is by offering a select few of them financial and institutional support.
The Top Scholar program has recruited distinguished high school seniors to UTSA from all over Texas, especially from San Antonio. Top Scholar has attracted these students by visiting different high schools, campaigning through emails and participating in various events with the admissions office. Recipients of the scholarship receive financial support for tuition, room and board, as well as one-on-one advising and automatic enrollment in the Honors College, provided they maintain a minimum GPA, participate in community service projects and live on campus for two years.
“It is a very lucrative and specialized program that these very high achieving students want,” said Director of Top Scholar Kristi Meyer. “It has definitely grown because of our desire for increasing graduation rates. However, it’s important to know that, because we are a small program, the things that we have that influence the graduation rate are much more indirect.”
Like UTSA’s original mission of embracing multicultural traditions, Top Scholars also values diversity, accepting first generation students, lower income students and students of all races and majors. The program is supported by the Office of the Associate Provost for Diversity and Requirement.
“It’s not an accident that we are in the office of diversity, and that mission of remaining diverse is critical to us and we absolutely believe with all of our being that you can in fact have a very high achieving and high level scholar program at the same time that you have a diverse program,” said Meyer.
UTSA’s four-year graduation rate may still be a paltry 13 percent, but the university is well on their way to achieving their goal to Tier One status, as they “continue to enhance its student diversity as it enriches the academic qualifications of its student population.”
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