10:30 AM

Student Proves Attitude Overcomes Adversity

Keith Baines Poised to Finish UHD Strong


By Mike Emery

Keith Baines once thought higher education was out of reach. A self-confessed “class clown,” he was expelled from high school and frequently in trouble. A change in attitude, however, helped him realize the importance of a degree. Now, he’s poised to Finish UHD Strong with a Bachelor of Applied Arts & Sciences (BAAS) degree.

“I’ve been down, but I’ve never been out,” he said. “But, UHD has helped me. I’m grateful to be a part of this university.”

Baines was born, raised and still resides in Wharton, Texas. He admits that he hung around the “wrong crowd” as a teenager and was suspended indefinitely during his junior year at Wharton High School. In spite of that event, he earned his GED and ultimately, set his sights on an associate’s degree from Wharton County Junior College.

Next on his college “to do” list was a bachelor’s degree. He explored different options and came across UHD’s BAAS program (based in University College). The fact that it was an online program appealed to Baines, who works two jobs. Add UHD’s affordable tuition to the equation, and the BAAS program (ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report) was a perfect fit for him.

“My goal is to help people,” he said. “This degree will allow me to do that. Right now, I’m learning about nonprofit organizations and the administrative aspects of these institutions. I want to apply what I am learning in this degree to a career in nonprofit management.”

Baines already has experience with community service and nonprofits. He has volunteered at food pantries working with people in need. After UHD, he envisions a career in which he can inspire formerly incarcerated populations to return to school and seek new opportunities.

“I have friends who have been locked up. They tell me that college is unavailable to them. I want them to know that an education is available for everyone,” he said.

His road to a bachelor’s degree took a slight detour during Tropical Storm Harvey when his home was flooded. Baines stayed in hotels for a while and moved to Houston briefly before finding his way back to Wharton to live with his aunt.

Compounding this obstacle were financial challenges, however an Undergraduate Tuition Grant helped him stay in school.

Through it all, Baines has kept his eye on the prize. By December, he expects to graduate with his BAAS degree.

“You have stay focused and remember you can’t do it by yourself,” he said.

Baines credits the support of his family and church (St. James Missionary Baptist Church) for helping him get through the tough times. And, he offers kudos to UHD.

The University, he said, has been there for him when he needed motivation and assistance. When he graduates, he hopes to pay it forward to others seeking to enhance their lives through education.

“UHD helped me, and it’s helping other students who want to make a difference in their city and community,” he said. “I would like to inspire others who think college is out of reach and let them know anything is possible if you work hard and have the right attitude.”

Baines is an example of Gator Grit and reflect UHD's commitment to its transfer students. Through partnerships with community colleges, students have opportunities to seamlessly transition from associate's programs into undergraduate majors at UHD. Those seeking to continue their studies at UHD benefit from resources and events, like Transfer Thursday, which offers admission counseling, information on scholarship opportunities, and advising.

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and 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 approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.