11:21 AM

Degree Maps Leading Students Toward Graduation Goals


By Mike Emery

The road to success isn’t always a straight path. In higher education, students take unexpected detours that often lead to excess hours and more student debt. Thanks to the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) and the city’s two largest community college systems, students now have maps to help them embark on the best routes toward bachelor’s degrees.

This semester, UHD and partner institutions Houston Community College (HCC) and Lone Star College (LSC) rolled out degree maps to guide students through their associate’s degrees en route to bachelor’s programs … and ultimately to graduation.

These degree maps were developed through separate articulation agreements between the University and both colleges. Complementing the degree maps is the addition of embedded advisers based at both HCC and LSC campuses. These advisers are available to counsel students seeking to transfer their associate’s credits to UHD and continue on a bachelor’s track.

“These embedded advisers will help community college students assess their pathways to UHD,” said Dr. Faiza Khoja, associate vice president for academic affairs. “They are assigned to HCC and LSC campuses and will have details about academic programs at those institutions and at UHD. Students will have convenient access to advising services and receive the information they need, when they need it. ”

Embedded advisers at LSC and HCC also will provide students with degree maps tailored to students’ areas of study. These maps list the courses that need to be taken at the community college level and will transfer to a specific major at UHD. Approximately 75 percent of UHD’s bachelor’s programs have been mapped to corresponding associate degrees at LSC and HCC.

Degree maps were designed to help students stay on the right path and avoid enrolling in classes they don't need. According to higher education advocacy group, Complete College America, students graduate with a minimum of 21 credit hours that don't apply to their majors.

“More than 67 percent of UHD’s students are transfer students,” Khoja said. “Collaborating with HCC and LSC, two of the nation’s largest community colleges, is a win for students. We’re able to support more transfers and help them graduate on time and with less debt.”

UHD’s partnerships with HCC and LSC also benefit the city and the state, Khoja added. By helping more students realize their dreams of earning a degree, the institutions also support the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s 60x30TX Higher Education Plan. This statewide initiative focuses on helping 60 percent of Texans earn a certificate or degree by 2030.

UHD leaders signed articulation agreements with their counterparts at HCC in December 2016 and with LSC’s leadership in March 2017. Both agreements pledged to enhance advising services, create joint admissions between UHD and each community college, and to develop degree maps. Recently, UHD and San Jacinto College signed articulation agreements focused on these same goals.

Degree maps and embedded advisers also support UHD’s commitment to the Houston Guided Pathways to Success (Houston GPS) initiative. This multi-institutional partnership fosters collaboration among area colleges and universities with the goal of helping students graduate on time with less debt. Additionally, Houston GPS is focused on streamlining the transfer process between local community colleges and universities.

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) – the second-largest university in Houston – has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974.

As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates more than 15,000 students; boasts more than 61,000 alumni and offers 45 bachelor’s, nine master’s degree programs and 16 fully online programs within five colleges (Marilyn Davies College of Business; Humanities & Social Sciences; Public Service; Sciences & Technology; and University College).

For the fourth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report ranks UHD among universities across the nation for Best Online Criminal Justice Programs (No. 27 and No. 15 for Veterans) and Best Online Bachelor’s Programs.

UHD has the most affordable tuition among four-year universities in Houston and one of the lowest in Texas. U.S. News ranked the University among Top Performers on Social Mobility and awarded UHD a No. 1 ranking as the most diverse institution of higher education in the southern region of the U.S. The University is noted nationally as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, Minority-Serving Institution and Military Friendly School. For more on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit www.uhd.edu.