UTEP is focused on re-enrolling stop-outs with a $ 3 million grant from the US Department of Education

The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) is working to help students struggling to graduate with a $ 3 million scholarship from the U.S. Department of Education.

The multi-pronged effort focuses on the reintegration and re-enrollment of undergraduate students who have suspended enrollment for a semester or more, also known as stop-outs.

“UTEP’s unique student body leads complex lives that can sometimes interfere with their studies,” said John Wiebe, Ph.D., provost and vice president of academic affairs and principal researcher on the scholarship. “This scholarship will allow the university to better understand the barriers some students face in successfully completing their studies and to address these issues over the long term.”

The sources of these obstacles are varied, and many of these problems have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, Wiebe said. These include financial complications such as losing the job of the student or a household member, loss of financial support, unexpected medical expenses, and others. These events can lead to situations where students leave school to work.

To address these issues, UTEP implements a multi-phase plan based on coordination and collaboration between multiple departments of the university.

Some of these efforts are already underway, such as a joint campaign by the Student and Academic Affairs departments to identify and interact with students who have dropped out. In the first phase of the initiative, a team of student confidants contacts the students by phone, SMS, email and social media. Once this team identifies students who have issues that the university can address, they refer those students to the appropriate services and then refer them to the Student Success Helpdesk, where they can get tailored advice to support them through to graduation .

An update to the class registration system is also underway, which will allow students to play a more active role in their own registration and management of their curricula, as well as a complementary project aimed at working with faculties to improve the university’s study programs rationalize to make them more accessible to students.

A variety of other initiatives that are under development will soon complement this effort. Some of these projects are aimed directly at prospective students, others are designed to prevent current students from falling into this category. This includes an expansion of the university’s financial support offers with the aim of increasing the students’ financial competence and awareness of available resources both inside and outside the campus.

UTEP’s Information Resources Department is coordinating the improvement of student information systems and is working on the launch of a new app that will allow the university to improve its communication with students on subjects such as registration, counseling, graduation and other issues that affect the students’ chances can improve to make progress towards their degree.

The Provost office administrators will also seek to leverage the resources and expertise of Extended University, UTEP’s hub for online and other non-traditional academic programs, professional education and training. This is an attempt to improve access by strategically adding online courses so that students who cannot be physically on campus can advance academically that way.

The Ministry of Education grant also supports the development of two innovative projects in the field of student employment.

Regarding the on-campus student employment program, Student Affairs and Academic Affairs officials are planning a transformation that will shift the program to an internship model that teaches skills that are aligned with the needs of the industry.

The university is also planning to reach out to community partners to offer paid internships at off-campus facilities for students who would otherwise have to work off-campus to support themselves and their families.

Underlining the scholarship’s overarching theme of collaboration between institutional departments, the University’s Institutional Evaluation, Research and Planning Center will track and evaluate the effectiveness of the various initiatives deployed during the duration of the scholarship.

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