AUSTIN, Texas — In an effort to provide greater access to higher education, Houston Endowment awarded The University of Texas at Austin’s University Leadership Network (ULN) $8.2 million to help economically disadvantaged Houston-area students achieve academic success and graduate in four years.
The grant will benefit a total of 375 students coming to UT Austin from the Houston area who will be designated Jones Scholars, in honor of Houston Endowment founders Jesse H. and Mary Gibbs Jones. ULN awards each student $5,000 per year for four years — a total of $20,000 — in incentive-based scholarships. The grant also supports programming designed to give students the support they need to succeed in college.
ULN ensures students are engaged, connected, accountable and supported. Students follow a comprehensive four-year plan that includes leadership training and certification, internships and experiential learning opportunities, and community and university service. All ULN students also participate in academic support programs.
The ultimate goal of ULN is to help students develop as leaders, succeed academically at UT Austin and stay on track to graduate in four years.
“The most important indicator of whether a student will struggle to graduate is whether he or she comes from an under-resourced background,” said David Laude, senior vice provost for Enrollment and Curriculum Services. “We want these young people to complete their degrees and get on with their lives, enter the workforce on schedule, well prepared to succeed in careers and in life without incurring additional debt by staying more than four years.”
To remain eligible and continue receiving the scholarship, students are required to stay on track to earn their degrees in four years.
“We are excited to support this innovative approach,” said Lisa Hall, Houston Endowment vice president for programs. “The ULN program provides students academic and social support — both are crucial for students to increase the likelihood of their persisting through college and obtaining a four-year degree.”
UT Austin has set a goal of reaching a 70 percent four-year graduation rate by 2017 and has developed many initiatives and programs to reach that goal — and initial results show progress. The class of 2017, now entering its junior year, was the first to benefit from campus-wide initiatives: 95 percent of students returned for their sophomore year. This is the highest persistence rate in UT Austin history.