Texas’ $46M reskill program is helping bring back students

The University of Houston-Downtown is one of dozens of institutions in the state to receive backing to get stopped-out students to pursue degrees and certificates.

They have effectively abandoned the higher education system, leaving potential degrees and certificates on hold. The University of Houston-Downtown says it is ready to help.

Thanks to a $750,000 grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, UHD will provide the assistance necessary to help former students who are interested in pursuing those goals.

The award from the Reskilling Grant fund, announced Wednesday, will provide a layer of financial aid – tuition and fees for the summer and fall – for those who want to continue their bachelor’s degree paths. Dr. Michelle Moosally, the Associate Vice President of Planning and Curriculum, said some students are only short of completion by a few courses.

“We have identified over 2,000 UHD students who have left UHD in the past six years without completing a degree, yet were in good standing,” she said. “With this grant, we can support their return and completion by providing financial support to cover tuition and fees for up to one or two courses in a semester for 500 students.”

Moosally said outreach will take place over the coming weeks to try to get students who have stopped out of that pursuit – for personal reasons, financial hardship or been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in other ways – to get back in the system.

The need at UHD

Nearly 75% of students at UHD receive some need-based financial aid and more than 50% of incoming freshmen are first-generation students. The university serves a very diverse pools of students: Hispanic (46%), Black (21%), White (16%), Asian (9%). Some of those populations have been hit especially hard during the pandemic, and especially those in the Deep South.

“As a Hispanic Serving Institution and Minority Serving Institution, [UHD] has long been committed to providing access and opportunity to first-generation and working adult students in the Houston region,” she said.  “This reskilling grant aligns directly with those goals.”

Other institutions are jumping on board reskilling or degree pursuits for those who’ve left the system in a variety of ways. Morehouse College, for example, just announced it is launching a fully online program to try to get students who stopped out back in the classroom.

Meanwhile, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is making a massive commitment to get those students to earn the skills needed to advance their professional opportunities and careers. It has already allocated $18 million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief fund into 49 public institutions in the state, including technical schools. Institutions are awaiting to hear on the second round of funding. Two of the schools that have received good news from the THECB were El Paso Community College, which will be able to use $1.5 million toward the cause, and nearby Houston Community College, which also got a $750,000 initial grant.

Colleges and universities who apply and are accepted agree to prioritize students who are pursuing careers in high-demand fields such as nursing, education, criminal justice, finance and information technology, according to the THECB.

One of the programs that will is tailor-made for the initiative at UHD will be its University College’s Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences in Applied Administration (BAAS-AA). Those positions, both administrative and supervisory, are critical to the support at corporate businesses and non-profits. Its Dean, Scott Marzilli, has been instrumental in working with other universities in implementing the academic portion of the THECB effort.

“We can’t wait to support our students and help them fulfill their dream of earning their degree,” he said.

Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

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