Andrews student gets boost to attend UTPB

Incoming University of Texas Permian Basin freshman Aaron Vasquez officially got a financial boost toward his college education Monday with the presentation of a $10,000 scholarship.

Vasquez, who will study music, received the scholarship by signing up for Falcon Days, the new student orientation at UTPB. About 90 students attended the event.

Vasquez is an Andrews High School graduate and is a vocalist who will be studying music at UTPB. For a Texas resident, tuition, fees room and board come to $20,570 per year. For non-resident/international students, it comes to $32,840.

Tuition and fees for Texas residents is $9,234 and for non-resident/international students it’s $21,504, according to the UTPB website.

“I was really shocked at first like no way. There’s no way that they just chose me, but after that it just processed through … and maybe gave me more motivation to go to school,” Vasquez said.

Vasquez is most looking forward to being involved in music when he starts attending UTPB this year. He chose UTPB so he could be closer to his family and he plans to live in campus.

Vasquez said they performed their Texas Music Educators Association concert at the Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center where the music program is housed.

“I’ll enjoy it,” he said of spending time in the venue.

He added that he has had a class with Frank Eychaner, associate professor in the music program.

Music in college is a “whole lot of a bigger game than in high school and that’s something that I’m really going to have to get used to,” Vasquez said.

Students who are still in high school, Vasquez said, should fill out almost every application they can to see what funding they can obtain. He also has other scholarships in addition to the $10,000.

Aaron’s parents Lisa and Lucio Vasquez were on hand for the event, along with Aaron’s brother Adam.

At first, Lisa Vasquez said she wasn’t sure of the scholarship amount, but when she saw the email she was really excited.

She added that the family is thrilled about the scholarship and that it will help their family a lot.

“It definitely motivated, motivated him more to come to school, and just he’s super excited about it,” Lisa Vasquez said.

Continuing the celebration into the general orientation, Vasquez was presented with an oversized check for his scholarship along with balloons in the UTPB colors.

UTPB President Sandra Woodley said the university offers high-quality academics in an environment with small classes where the professors know the students’ names. Students also will have a UT education.

“We also have fun here; you’ll see today. You’ll learn about our 16 intercollegiate athletic sports, so if you’re playing, or if you’re on one of those teams, we welcome you here as an athlete,” Woodley said.

If not, Woodley said, there are many other organizations and activities students can be part of.

“… There’s something for everyone here to do. We’re really excited to have you here. We also are very laser focused on the student experience. Here, students are number one for the University of Texas Permian Basin so … you get that University of Texas education, … but we also want you to have a really wonderful, nurturing experience” meeting new friends, enjoying the facilities and getting to know the professors, Woodley said.

Woodley added that she is a “little bit of a mama bear” when it comes to students and tries to make sure there is nothing standing in their way.

Plans are underway for a campus transformation including outdoor furniture and a place to plug in electronics; a complete library renovation for a makerspace, space for undergraduate research and a big amphitheater for eSports, she said.

Vice President of Enrollment Management PJ Woolston said there are many scholarships available to students for academics, needs-based grants, scholarships related to majors, extra and co-curricular groups.

“… What we try to do is we try to put together a financial aid package that makes it really possible for students to come,” Woolston said.

He added that there is probably more money available for students now. Woolston has been in his job for a little more than a year.

“… We’re lucky in one sense, because the state of Texas invests heavily in higher education; some of the best funding provided by a state that I’ve ever seen. … They really want students to get an education and go on and be successful. And my perception is that that’s increased. I don’t know whether that’s true, because I’ve just got here as you know. But I also know that our development office works really, really hard to get more scholarships from donors and we’ve actually done a better job in the last year getting that information out to students so that they can know how to apply for scholarships. And the past few years, they can consider you automatically. Now students can actually request ones that they match for,” Woolston said.

“… If you have any kind of need, we often can cover all the student’s tuition and fees, and sometimes even some of their living expenses. And that’s through a combination of the state who really cares, the federal government and Pell grants for students … and then our own commitment,” Woolston said.

Federal CARES funding also has helped provide needs-based grants for students who have been affected by COVID, Woolston said.

“So many students have been affected; just about everybody in one way or another. … We’re doing a combination of asking students to let us know, so that we can get them that funding and also identifying students on our own,” Woolston added.

Gromyko Ngueyap, 18, attended high school in Houston but decided to do his first year at UTPB before transferring. He is in the coordinated admission program.

Ngueyap said this was his first time on the UTPB campus.

“I like the campus and environment. The people seem really nice. The staff is really helpful and there is just a very positive vibe.”