Ds Scholarship

OC Promise details on agenda

The Odessa College Promise initiative along with the newly announced Falcon Free program at University of Texas Permian Basin could make college more affordable for students and create more educational attainment in the region, Vice President for Student Services Kim McKay said.

When the Odessa College Board of Trustees meets at 6:30 pm Tuesday in the Zant Room of the Saulsbury Campus Center it will hear a presentation on OC Promise from McKay and Vice President for Academic Partnerships Jonathan Fuentes.

“We will most likely share details for a media release and share some of the ways we think students can use this as a pipeline to the new Falcon program really creating opportunities for baccalaureate degree attainment in the region at little to no cost for our students, McKay said. “We also hope that through OC Promise we’re able to increase the college going rate in the region.”

Falcon Free is part of the University of Texas System’s $300 million endowment to expand tuition assistance programs at all University of Texas institutions also known as “Promise Plus.”

“Promise Plus” provides tuition assistance to eligible students at seven UT institutions including UT Arlington, UT Dallas, University of Texas at El Paso, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, UT San Antonio and UT Tyler.

Falcon Free is a plan that covers the cost of tuition and mandatory fees for students who have limited family resources to pay for college at UTPB, a March 16 Odessa American detailed article.

McKay said the college going rate in the region has stayed right at or around 50 percent for the last several years. She added that it was similar data to what Ector County ISD Superintendent Scott Muri shared at his recent State “… We have a responsibility to change that. And all the innovation and all of the programs that we have for students in the Permian Basin haven’t nudged that number, so we’re hoping this is something that’s going to get us some positive traction and begin to really change the face of education here,” McKay said.

She noted that OC had started talking about OC Promise in the fall, introducing it to the board for the first time in December.

“As we learned more about Falcon Free, we felt like it was the perfect pairing for students in our region and I really do think that’s the way Dr. Woodley (UTPB president) and Dr. Williams (OC president) have looked at this…,” McKay said.

She said it’s not in competition, but in coordination to make sure they meet the goals set for them by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in the 60 by 30 plan.

The goal is to get 60 percent of the 25- to 34-year old Texas population to hold a certificate or degree by 2030.

McKay said the objective for OC Promise is to make it self-sustaining.

“The first year tuition and fee expenses are expected to be a little over $1 million, but we know that the mitigating costs or the offsets to year 1 is just under $600,000. Those include the contact hour funding that we receive for students who enroll in credit-bearing courses from the state of Texas. It also includes what we currently invest in through First Class Free. It includes students who may be bringing prior dual credit to their pathway, so fewer hours to use Promise funds,” McKay said.

“It includes the 5 percent offset of tuition and fees for students who are part of Odessa College Select. It includes five scholarships that are currently in the Positively OC Presidential Scholarship. We made the decision to allocate five Promise students (with) Positively OC Presidential scholarships,” she added.

“It includes reallocating our Student Success campaign that we do annually with employees to the Promise program. It also includes a board-approved policy update that allocates 10 percent of the total surplus of the unrestricted net position to OC Promise and we estimate (that) to be, using averages, over $300,000 a year,” McKay said.

She added that it was interesting to note that there were already several initiatives aimed at making college affordable for OC students “and then making some adjustments in our business practices makes it even more of an affordable program. It made complete sense to do this for our students and for our community.”

To be eligible, students have to be first-time, full-time students in the class of 2024.

“It will be open to GED and home school students that must be between the ages of 17 and 19. There are no income or high school GPA requirements,” McKay said. “They do have to enroll full time in an associate degree or workforce pathway. And then to maintain eligibility, our goal is to have them complete within two to three years because that’s the data that will actually nudge our graduation rate, our national graduation rate. So to maintain eligibility once the scholarship is awarded they have to maintain at least 12 credit hours with satisfactory academic progress and for us that’s a 2.0.”

McKay said this could be a way to recruit students that may not have considered college as part of their future.

“But another thing that I think will probably increase enrollment of all over the state is the mandate for all graduating seniors to complete their FAFSA. So many students leave money on the table because they don’t complete what is a difficult process and application, but I think that we’ll see an increase in the amount of Pell (grant) eligible students and the amount of Pell awards in our region just because of the mandate,” she said.

The high school of 2021 left an estimated $3.75 billion in Pell Grants on the table by not the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), according to a new National College Attainment Network (NCAN) analysis.

There also is funding through the state for reskilling and upskilling and covid related money.

Although we have created a path to promise for the class of 2024, we’re committed to finding ways to make education affordable for students as early as the class of 2022. In addition to first class free, leveraging some of those coordinating board reskilling opportunities. for students to upskill or reskill into high wage, high demand careers or find a path to transfer.

… We’ll continue to connect students to resources that are promise like before we go full fledged in 2024.

Our goal is to create a self sustaining endowment that information was shared with the board at the board meeting in January and I think it’s a $60 million endowment over the 10 years to create a self sustaining program,” McKay said.

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