12:26 PM

GTF Awards Grant to UHD Focused on Boosting College Opportunities for Students


By Mark Kramer

The Greater Texas Foundation recently awarded a $555,402 grant to the University of Houston-Downtown that will support its efforts with United For College Success (UFCS) in providing pathways to higher education for students from low-income families.

Starting this semester, UHD will be the college partner and home for UFCS, a statewide coalition comprised of 10 member school districts in the Greater Houston area and South Texas.

The grant and UHD’s involvement with UFCS will enhance innovation in student support practices that will be shared with future university partners.

“In partnership with UFCS, together we are going to implement a Collaborative Support Model (CSM), which will serve as a collective-action blueprint for secondary, post-secondary, and community-based organizations to build capacity and streamline efforts to ensure strong transition, positive persistence and degree attainment,” said Dr. Scott Marzilli, Dean of UHD’s University College.

Through the grant, UHD will work with UFCS and its partners to share student data to track students through college, as well as share best practices that support students. The coalition is seeking to enhance student learning and create pathways to college through the following:

  • Tailored and individual student support
  • Student-centered technology with greater bandwidth and capacity
  • Linkage of degree attainment with career goals

“The partnership between UHD and UFCS is exactly the type of collective action the college success space needs,” said Yvonne Eype, UFCS Executive Director. “Through this project, we will go beyond ideas to implementing student success practices together.”

Eype said UHD and UFCS partners will work to meet the needs of first generation and underserved students, coupled with a network of care.

“Our support model will help to eliminate various college access barriers faced by students and high school counselors,” she said. “This model will help to strengthen communication between secondary and postsecondary institutions.”

In addition, an app will eventually be made available to students that will help them build higher-level thinking skills in a “game type” format.

“The GRADify Student Engagement App will bring a much-needed gamification to the student success space,” Marzilli said. “With all college students, especially first-generation students, we need to meet them on their terms. We need to create fun challenges or missions that once fulfilled, will not only move them up the leaderboard in GRADify, but will introduce them to all the support services the University of Houston-Downtown has to offer. GRADify is a game changer!”

Marzilli added that the grant aligns perfectly with both the first goal of UHD’s Strategic Plan to support student success, and with the Foundation’s priority to support the transfer and transition of students from high school into college learning environments. Likewise, it complements the Foundation’s focus on creating policies and practices that provide affordable, clear, and efficient post-secondary pathways for students to earn their college degree.

“Through collaboration and innovation, we envision this grant will allow us to increase access to post-secondary education, while concentrating on the students’ transition from high school, persistence in college and ultimately, earning their college degree,” he said.

Last October, a letter of intent was signed by former UHD President Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz and representatives from the UFCS member schools. Under the agreement, the learning institutions agreed to work together in providing students with pathways to college graduation and a transition into successful careers.

UFCS schools involved in the partnership include: KIPP Public Schools, IDEA Public Schools, YES Prep Public Schools, Houston ISD, Spring Branch ISD, One Goal Houston, Harmony Public Schools, Young Women’s Preparatory Network, Uplift Education and Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD.

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD)—the second largest university in Houston—has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974.

As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive four-year university led by Interim President Antonio D. Tillis. Annually, UHD educates more than 14,000 students; boasts more than 51,000 alumni and offers 44 bachelor’s and eight master’s degree programs within five colleges (Marilyn Davies College of Business; Humanities & Social Sciences; Public Service, Sciences & Technology; and University College).

UHD has the most affordable tuition among four-year universities in Houston and one of the lowest in Texas. The University is noted nationally as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, Minority-Serving Institution and Military Friendly School. For more on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit www.uhd.edu.