To help increase enrollment and educational attainment in the region, University of Texas Permian Basin is focusing on the local area to draw in students.
Susie Thiessen, assistant director of admissions, said PJ Woolston came in as the university’s new vice president of enrollment management last year.
“So with the shift of the admissions office, we wanted to implement more and different things than what we’ve done in the past to help boost enrollment. Our plan this year is to focus more on the Permian Basin area. That includes our counties within like a 50-60 mile radius, sometimes up to 100 miles,” Thiessen said.
Officials want to connect the local counties.
“A lot of times people forget about those rural small towns and so we want to establish more communication with them and basically trying to build that college going culture because we have a lot of students in this area that are first-generation. We just really want to provide that opportunity that they can go to college. It doesn’t have to have to be UTPB, but we’re going to help students along the way no matter what. If they choose to go to college, we’re here to help engage them in that possibility,” Thiessen said.
The university plans to use its connections with high school counselors and teachers.
“There are community members that we also keep in contact with,” Thiessen noted.
She said people in the past have overlooked UTPB because it’s part of the UT System so they think it might be on the pricey side.
“But what they don’t realize is that we have such affordable and competitive tuition rates. We’re top 10 in the state of Texas for most affordable tuition, plus we have amazing scholarship opportunities. But I think people don’t realize how much aid and financial assistance they can actually get and come here either debt free or for free or with very, very low balance at the end of the semester,” Thiessen said.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will be a requirement for students to graduate starting in the spring 2022.
“So we really want to emphasize FAFSA, financial aid, TASFA and just ways that students can go to college with the financial assistance they need,” she added.
The university also received COVID relief funds, so the financial aid office is going to be working to reimburse students to refund some of that tuition.
“That will be a great relief for a lot of students and I know that will help a lot of families, as well, because school during COVID was really tough for a lot of students, so I’m sure the financial relief will be a blessing for them,” Thiessen said.
Thiessen added that they are seeing a rise in the importance of obtaining a bachelor’s degree, which helps with future careers.
“We really want to emphasize how people can affordably come here to UTPB (and) obtain their bachelor’s degree which will set them for their future career and also we do have a great reputation in the state of Texas for our students finding jobs within their field after they graduate. Our professors and deans have really great connections with local business owners in this area to help students get internships and help them get jobs after they graduate. We have a really great way to help students transition from graduation to real life working in their career field,” she added.
College graduates earn $1 million more than high school graduates over their lifetime.
Thiessen said this helps students in the long run because you acquire critical thinking skills, for example.
UTPB offers full-time online options.
“… We have flexibility with classes being in the evening occasionally, so we will work with the student in any way that we can. If they just decide that they are unable to do it, we can always recommend maybe transferring to Odessa College, Midland College (to) maybe get some of those courses you need out of the way and then you can come back to us maybe online or maybe when you have a little more flexibility. But we’ll always be there for the student, encouraging them and if they have to take a semester off we totally understand that they can always take a semester off and re-enroll,” Thiessen added.