Success By Design: UHD Wins THECB Accelerate Student Success Planning Grant
By Laura Wagner
UHD was recently awarded a $50,000 Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) Accelerate Student Success Planning Grant. The competitive award, which was distributed to only 80 qualified Texas institutions impacted by COVID-19, will allow UHD to explore ways to optimize student success services and improve student access to those services.
“The Coordinating Board recognizes the challenges UHD’s student population faced during the pandemic as well as the efforts President Blanchard has put into place to enhance student success,” said Lynette Cook-Francis, Interim Vice President for Student Success and Student Life. “The grant will enable us to look at strategies that build on our current strengths to help students who are managing personal and familial responsibilities in addition to their academics.”
A planning grant provides financial resources that allow the recipient to investigate effective responses to a given issue, according to Cook-Francis. Applying for implementation funds is a second phase that will begin soon.
“We’ve seen a widening of racial and economic gaps in academic outcomes post-COVID,” said Cook-Francis. “We want to allocate the planning grant funds to strategies that will have the greatest effect on narrowing those gaps by addressing students’ basic needs.”
Cook-Francis outlined four tactics the grant will support now through October, when the planning phase ends:
- Conduct student surveys and focus groups to understand students’ unmet basic needs.
- Visit other college campuses with highly developed basic needs programs to learn how UHD can evolve its program.
- Bring experts on campus to train faculty and staff how to develop and support a comprehensive basic needs program.
- Develop a preliminary “one-stop shop” website where students can access all UHD’s current basic needs offerings.
“For many of our students, UHD is an anchoring point—a position that requires us to use our resources to design services that provide stability so they can focus on attaining their degrees,” said UHD President Loren J. Blanchard.
“The planning grant will allow us to hear directly from students about the barriers that stand in their way and to learn best practices from peer institutions,” said Cook-Francis. “The intelligence we gather plus the faculty and staff training and online resources will lay the foundation for us to make greater strides in optimizing lifelong student success. That’s our ultimate goal.”
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.