Communication Is Key To Keeping First-Generation College Students Enrolled

Jan 20, 2020

From Texas Standard:

Over the years, Texas has tried to boost enrollment in college. After all, people with college degrees tend to earn higher wages. But for some first-generation students, many of whom also come from families with low incomes, the transition from high school to college can be daunting. And it's this transition that one education nonprofit says is a blind spot in the Texas education system.

Dan Hooper is executive director of ScholarShot, a Dallas-based nonprofit. Rebecca Morgan is the organization's director of data intelligence. They say that some public universities aren't doing enough to help those students succeed once they get into college.

"We've seen some significant shortfalls in our university practices and policies," Hooper says. "Those kids make up half the population of our universities and yet as many as nine out of 10 that enroll in college drop out."

ScholarShot got 28 of Texas' 35 public universities to participate in its survey, which became its public universities Report Card. The top two schools are the University of North Texas at Dallas and the University of Texas at Arlington.

Hooper says one thing those schools do differently is that they require professors to report assignment and test grades more quickly. Most schools don't have a time limit for such reporting, and Hooper says that lack of accountability is part of the problem.

"They get up to $11,000 per student per year in public grants ... and another $7,000 to $12,000 in public loans," Hooper says. "If you want to take our student grants and load them up with debt, they have got to see them succeed."

But ScholarShot didn't release the names of schools that performed poorly on its survey. Hooper says that was intentional; he wants the report card to be more of a motivator for other schools rather than to condemn them.

"[We] invite those universities to learn their score, and most importantly learn what they need to do to help these students succeed," Hooper says.

Morgan says ScholarShot's rankings are available online for school counselors, students and parents who want to learn more.

Written by Caroline Covington.