For the fifth year in a row, traditionally underrepresented students constitute more than half of the entire study body at UT Austin. At the same time, four-year graduation rates continue to increase—rising to just over 60 percent, according to a 2016 report released last fall by UT Austin.
Several programs within the DDCE have helped contribute to these promising statistics. One such program is UT Outreach, a pre-college preparatory program within the Longhorn Center for School Partnerships that targets students in underserved high schools across the state.
“The level of contact our students receive from the university level is what sets us apart,” says Brian English, executive director of UT Outreach-Dallas. “We are able to tell students that it doesn’t just stop with you all in high school. We stay connected with students through the education pipeline and all the way through to graduate school and employment.”
If not for UT Outreach, Madison Beasley, who earned a recurring scholarship as well as SAT prep, is unsure if she would have ended up at UT Austin.
“I appreciate the opportunities UT Outreach has provided me as well as introducing me to the skills I need in order to thrive in college,” says Madison, an exercise science sophomore. “We learned about what it takes to be a leader and that helped me prepare for UT.”
As students like Beasley transition from high school to UT Austin, UT Outreach makes sure they are connected with the Longhorn Center for Academic Excellence before they even attend summer orientation. Much of that work falls within the Gateway Scholars, a program that recruits prospective Longhorns and advises students after they enroll.
“We have heard from students that they decided to come because of the direct approach,” Lu says.“Even though UT is big, our model provides a more personal feel.”
Both Lu and English believe the university will only see further success in the recruitment and retention of students of color.
“The DDCE is now more involved and we do a much better job of informing our targeted communities,” Lu says. “Our students are no longer submitting applications into a black hole, but they understand how the process works and that their applications are valued. As word
continues to spread, we expect only greater things to come.”