Wrangler Promise begins drawing students to OC

Students of Odessa Collegiate Academy and Odessa Career and Technical Early College High School watch as local education leaders speak during the kickoff event announcing the Odessa College Wrangler Promise program Tuesday, May 17, 2022, at the OC Sports Center. (Odessa American File Photo)

For its first year, the Odessa College’s Wrangler Promise program has received 1,067 pledges.

Wrangler Promise is a last-dollar-in scholarship opportunity that covers the cost of tuition and fees for eligible class of 2024 high school graduates. The first year, $1 million investment, will be the cornerstone of a program designed to increase the college-going and college-completing culture in the region.

The class of 2024 is the first to be able to take advantage of it. Pledges opened Jan. 16 and closed April 15. They plan to have the pledge period open earlier in the fall.

Roxanne Mitchell is director of Wrangler Promise. She has been at OC for three years starting off as the assistant registrar. She took on the director’s job in September of this year.

“A pledge form is a very new term in higher ed. The pledge form is basically a survey of what a student’s interests are. We’re collecting their contact data. We want to know what their plans are after high school, whether that’s pursuing higher education, joining the military, or joining the workforce,” Mitchell said.

“We will use the pledge form data to secure a scholarship opportunity for our students who pledged in the fall. We are looking at who has pledged to our partners and we will then share partner pledge data with our partners and we’ve partnered with Angelo State University, Texas Tech University, University of Texas of the Permian Basin, West Texas A&M, and Sul Ross State University,” she added.

The goal is for the students to transfer or join the workforce.

All of OC’s partners have promise programs, but the difference between their programs and OC’s is they have different gross incomes for households whereas OC has none. The Falcon Free scholarship at UTPB has an average gross income cap of $100,000.

“But my role in the pledge form data and our partners is to share pledge data with partners so that they can begin contacting and recruiting those students. Then of course, when it comes to our dual credit students who have received an associate with us, they will not be eligible. However, they can pledge to a partner and we can share that information because we want every student to pledge because we want to look at this data and see where our students are transferring to,” Mitchell said.

She added that this has the potential to be used for long-term institutional effectiveness research to see whether students are going into the workforce immediately, transferring to a partner school or a different school.

Technically students could transfer after the first year because OC’s credits are transferable.

“We would prefer that they (did) not because this is a student success program and our goal is completion … so we really want them to complete before they transfer and aside from the promise opportunities that are out there, there are also some great transfer scholarship opportunities with our partners,” Mitchell said.

To be eligible for the Wrangler Promise program, students must:

  • Be high school seniors who live in the Odessa College Service Area and are graduating in the Class of 2024.
  • Be GED and home school students who are between the ages of 17-19 after 2024.
  • Enroll full-time in an associate degree or workforce certificate pathway. There are no income or high school GPA requirements to be eligible for the Wrangler Promise program.

The program is open to high school students in Odessa and throughout the OC service area.

Permian High School had 369 students pledge and Odessa High School had 244.

“Our goal is to have every student pledge,” Mitchell said.

She added at the early college high school students at Odessa Collegiate Academy and OCTECHS can take advantage of Wrangler Promise if they have under 60 credit hours.

“Unfortunately, the majority of them will not be eligible for promise because they are receiving their associate (degree). When it comes to our OCTECHS students, they will be eligible to transition into our BAAS program. But they’re the only demographic that has that opportunity,” Mitchell said.

BAAS stands for Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences.

Mitchell observed that the goal of a lot of OCA students is to leave.

“We really want them to transfer … but plans change. Students want to stay close to family, so we want to make sure that we’re a good fit for them,” she added.

President of Odessa College Greg Williams speaks to the student bodies of Odessa Collegiate Academy and Odessa Career and Technical Early College High School during a kickoff announcing the Odessa College Wrangler Promise program Tuesday, May 17, 2022, at the OC Sports Center. (Odessa American File Photo)

The Wrangler Promise, she feels, has helped break down financial barriers for students.

“Who doesn’t want to go to college for free? Education is so important. It affords you the opportunity to change your life and really level up and do things that you never thought you would do. So by removing that barrier, students don’t have the excuse anymore. There’s a million other excuses that they can come up (with), but it’s certainly not going to be their GPA, or the cost of tuition and fees,” Mitchell said.

For recruitment, she said they hit it pretty hard in the fall.

“We had several different school visits. We visited 18 of our service area schools in several different capacities. We would either meet for a senior assembly. We would be in the classrooms with them, pep rallies. I think it’s those three main platforms, classrooms, senior assembly, and pep rallies. But we just go and visit with students. One of our staples is a stick horse race. I feel like it’s now going to be a Wrangler Promise thing but we just go out and have some fun with them. Talk to them a little bit and we present about Wrangler Promise. … Some schools we were able to get them pledged while during our visit. But we hit so many schools before our pledge form actually opened, so what I did was I collected contact information throughout the process. … Once the pledge form opened, we began texting and emailing students to let them know that this opportunity had opened. I’ve got to say ECISD was a huge support. They have been an extremely solid partner. They have sent out messages for us. One of the high schools even added the pledge form to their Schoology page, so that’s when students logged in on Schoology the pledge form was accessible to them,” Mitchell said.

Schoology is a learning management system that ECISD uses.

She hopes to open the pledge form in October for the class of 2025.

There is a Wrangler Promise page on the Odessa College website at tinyurl.com/nhe8rxnu

She added that although the pledge form deadline has passed, the students who are now pledged have until July 15 to fill out Apply Texas, complete their FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), get registered and accept the scholarship.

“We’ve definitely changed the conversation with our first-time in college students when it comes to graduating high school, and coming to Odessa College in the fall,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell noted that there are other scholarships available if they weren’t eligible for Wrangler Promise.

“I don’t want anyone to feel like they’ve completely missed their opportunity. I’ve talked with several different students who aren’t eligible for Promise, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a future here at Odessa College. They absolutely do. We have other scholarships that they may qualify for, so I just don’t want anyone to feel like they missed the boat when it comes to Wrangler Promise. They’re definitely still welcome here,” she added.