$1.5 million grant aims to help former students return to college to complete degrees
Texas State University has been awarded a $1.5 million reskilling grant to help up to 1,000 former students with some college credit return to school and complete their degrees.
Texas State received the pass-through grant from the United States Department of Education's Education Stabilization Fund Program via the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund.
Reskilling grants to institutions will support displaced Texas workers who need to reskill or upskill to get back into the workforce and Texas students who have previously stopped out of higher education institutions without completing a postsecondary credential.
Texas State's grant is part of the Texas Reskilling Support Fund Grant Program, a $46.5 million fund established to provide essential emergency educational support to students that have been most significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and aid in the continuation of their education and economic recovery. It will directly support Bring Bobcats Back, a program created in 2018 to encourage students to return to Texas State and finish their degrees.
"This is a great opportunity for those who want to finish their degree," explained Todd Sherron, assistant professor of practice with the Department of Organization, Workforce and Leadership Studies (OWLS), who oversaw Texas State's grant application. "If a student has 90 hours of course credit and meets the criteria, we will provide financial assistance to them to finish their education."
More than 36 million Americans – including more than 2 million in the state of Texas – have some college experience but have not completed their degree. This challenge has significant implications for students’ financial well-being, particularly during the economic downturn caused by the pandemic: a college degree translates to an average of $1 million additional earnings over a lifetime, and college graduates are half as likely to be unemployed as those with a high school degree.
Enrollment Management at Texas State, which manages Bring Bobcats Back, has developed a list of prospective candidates by reviewing academic records to identify formerly enrolled students who completed several years of study but stopped short of earning their degree. Those prospects will be contacted and provided information about the new opportunity.
The financial aid is not just limited to those who initially attended Texas State. Those who began, but did not complete, their coursework at other universities are also eligible if they meet the program's criteria.
"I'm biased, but OWLS was really built to serve this kind of need," Sherron said. "We have accelerated pathways in the OWLS program for this type of degree completion, but all of the colleges at Texas State will be participating.
"I've seen people graduate within two to four semesters on average," he said. "That's a pretty quick degree completion timeline."
The grant strengthens Texas State's ongoing efforts to identify and reach out to former students who left the university before obtaining their degree. In 2020, the university entered into a partnership with ReUp Education to identify, engage and support the re-entry of students who have stopped out of college.
To qualify for the reskilling program, prospective returning students must be Texas residents eligible for in-state tuition as determined by the institution; have filed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA); have financial need and are eligible for federal Title IV aid; have affirmed they were affected by COVID-19. Institutions may establish their own processes for determining COVID-19 impact; are enrolled in an eligible undergraduate or short-term workforce credential program on either a full time or part time basis; have not been enrolled in an accredited postsecondary institution in the previous academic (long) semester or previous six months; and are within twelve months or 75% or more of completing their credential program.