University to award $15 million in scholarships with new program

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Starting next fall, the University will award high-performing, socioeconomically disadvantaged incoming freshman in 2015 with $15 million-worth of scholarships through a new initiative titled “Texas Advance.”

The program will also admit students to the college of their choice and give them exclusive access to organizations that aim to help them succeed at the University.

According to the University, a student can receive up to $5,000 each school year directly from the program. Combining "Texas Advance" with Pell Grants and TEXAS Grants, a student could receive up to $15,000 per year to students who have earned the scholarship.

Gregory Vincent, vice president of the Division for Diversity and Community Engagement, said one of the greatest barriers to access of higher education is the cost. He said his department does not only want students to pass their courses, but to excel.

“I think we are taking a giant step, and I commend President [William Powers Jr.] and Senior Vice Provost [David] Laude for their leadership — the BDCE is proud to partner with them,” Vincent said. “Making campuses affordable is always an issue.”

Vincent said an important aspect of the program is to ensure that marginalized students, especially those from low-socioeconomic backgrounds, feel comfortable once admitted to the University.

“I think one of the things we are very concerned about in the community is that we make sure college is accepting of students who come from low-socioeconomic backgrounds,” Vincent said.

There is still much work to be done to make campus inviting to all students, according to Vincent, but he says the University has done a great job at identifying which students need aid.

“Being a first generation, low-socioeconomic student of color presents many challenges,” Vincent said. “I think [‘Texas Advance’] will serve as a model for other universities.”

The “Texas Advance” application is designed to provide a holistic review of each student’s credentials, according to Associate Vice Provost Carolyn Connerat. She said it focuses on students with the highest performances and greatest needs for financial aid.

“There are always limited funds available to help all the students who have financial need in the state of Texas,” Connerat said. “We want to increase the number of students who apply to UT that come from economically disadvantaged areas, who otherwise would not have come to the University.”

Connerat said she believes financial need is an additional form of anxiety that can overwhelm students, and, in order to encourage them, “Texas Advance” aims to reduce that stress as much as possible. Student Government President Kori Rady said he believes the University is currently offering enough scholarship opportunities for students who deserve or need them.

“I’m sure we’re very competitive, or we wouldn’t attract so many students from different backgrounds,” Rady said. “There’s a reason we have such a diverse student body, and that obviously comes with opportunities for financial aid and scholarships.”

Correction: An earlier edition of this story mistakenly reported "Texas Advance" money stemmed from federal grants. It is, in fact, being soley funded by the University.