Texas State, ACC program provides more access to four-year degrees
Sophomore Jena Jean said she knew she wanted to attend Texas State University after graduating from high school, but when she first applied to the school, she was accepted under special conditions.
“I got admitted to a lot of other colleges, but I knew Texas State was the place for me. I didn’t want to go anywhere else,” she said.
The terms of her acceptance required her enrollment in Pathway, a joint-enrollment program between Texas State and the Austin Community College Hays campus that allows select freshman students to live on the Texas State campus in San Marcos and take classes there and at the community college in Kyle.
Jean received information about Pathway and accepted the offer. She completed her year of study in the program and gained full acceptance to Texas State in 2016.
Jean said the program helped her with the transition from high school to a university.
“It gives opportunities to students that wouldn’t make it in college,” she said. “It’s for kids who are acclimating. It’s a wonderful program.”
During the yearlong program, students live in Texas State residence halls and take three or four credit hours per semester in San Marcos and nine to 12 credit hours per semester at ACC Hays. After two semesters, if they have completed at least 24 credit hours with at least a cumulative GPA of 2.25, they are granted full admission to Texas State. The program is limited to Texas residents.
“[Pathway] couples two wonderful things: the opportunity to attend a community college at a reduced cost and integrate into the Texas State community,” said Stephanie Anderson, assistant vice president for enrollment management and director of undergraduate admissions at Texas State.
Students in the program typically barely miss admission requirements, but still want to be Texas State students.
“It’s students that if we had space, we’d take,” she said. “They’re admissible; they’re ready for college. This is not a group of students that we have great concern about, academically.”
The program gives aspiring Bobcats another chance to attend the university, said Michael R. Heintze, associate vice president for enrollment management and marketing at Texas State.
“As we’ve grown larger and become attractive to an ever-growing number of students here in Texas, we can only accommodate so many,” Heintze said. “It became apparent that having this additional opportunity for students who narrowly miss the admissions requirements would give students who really want to be here an opportunity to take advantage of this.”
Since Pathway began in 2014, 375 students completed the program and were accepted to Texas State as full-time students.
So far, 143 incoming students have signed up for the Pathway program’s 2016-17 school year. They will live in a Texas State dorm and have the chance to take part in college activities, such as intramural sports, clubs and Greek life, all while taking the majority of their classes at the ACC Hays campus, where they will have smaller classes.
“In their freshman year they’re actually living on campus, which we know has a positive impact upon students in their transition to college life,” Heintze said. “They have a much better chance of being successful in the classroom, as opposed to commuting.”
Pathway students pay the in-district rate at ACC Hays, said George Reyes, dean of student services at ACC Hays. The estimated annual cost of attendance for the Pathway program in the 2016-17 school year is $17,130, and a school year for a full-time Texas resident runs $22,190, saving the student $5,060 for his or her freshman year. However, a student’s financial situation does not play a role in his or her acceptance to the program.
After a year in Pathway, students who do not complete enough credit hours or fail to meet the minimum GPA must “sit out” for a semester and meet regular transfer requirements. A non-Pathway student with less than 30 hours who hopes to transfer to Texas State must have at least a 2.0 GPA, and a potential student with 30 hours or more must have at least a 2.25 GPA, be at least one semester out of high school and be eligible to return to all previous institutions.
Anderson credits Pathway’s success, in part, to the opportunity for students to settle into life in San Marcos.
“[With Pathway] you don’t lose sight of the goal to attend Texas State full-time,” she said. “You don’t have that transition our transfer students have. They’re already integrated into our community.”
A path for local students
This fall, four students from Kyle and one each from San Marcos and Buda will take part in the program.
Grace Delgadillo, San Marcos High School college & career center supervisor, said the Pathway program is a good way for students who were not offered full admission to Texas State to still experience being a Bobcat.
In San Marcos CISD’s 2014-15 graduating class, 68 percent of students reported they plan to attend a four-year, community or technical college in the fall 2015 semester.
A degree from a four-year institution can change a student’s life, Delgadillo said, but SMHS places more emphasis on students getting the level of education for whatever career they want to pursue, whether it requires a bachelor’s degree or not.
Still, Pathway could help make college a realistic possibility for many students, Delgadillo said.
“This is an especially significant program for SMHS graduates because it allows them to feel like Texas State is not just the university on the hill, but a reachable institution for them as well,” she said in an email.
In Hays CISD, 53 percent of students in the 2014-15 graduating class enrolled in a technical school, community college or four-year university in the fall 2015 semester.
Charlotte Winkelmann, director of guidance, college & career readiness at Hays CISD said the district hopes to increase their direct college enrollment.
Programs like Pathway ease students into the university setting by combining a “small-school academic environment” with “life on a larger campus.”
“That’s the best of both worlds,” Winkelmann said. “It gives you a chance to get used to college.”