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Island University Awarded Grant for Expansion of Texas Affordable Baccalaureate Program

March 02, 2017

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AUSTIN, Texas – Today (March 2, 2017) the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board announced the award of more than $650,000 to four public institutions for expansion of the Texas Affordable Baccalaureate program. Recipients are Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Tarleton State University, South Texas College (in partnership with Austin Community College), and Texas A&M University-Commerce. The funds awarded will support the planning, development and implementation of the institutions’ new affordable baccalaureate programs.

“The Texas Affordable Baccalaureate is a cost-effective option to provide greater socioeconomic mobility for a greater number of Texans,” said Commissioner of Higher Education Raymund Paredes. “The state must continue to innovate and provide cost-effective, high-quality education that meets the needs of an ever-changing global economy while providing greater opportunity and prosperity for Texans. The Coordinating Board welcomes these four new programs.”

The College For all Texans Foundation supported the fundraising efforts for the grants, which were made possible through AT&T Aspire, Greater Texas Foundation, Kresge Foundation and Meadows Foundation. Grant recipients were selected through a competitive application and review process.

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi will use the funds to create an affordable baccalaureate program in mechanical engineering technology. The program will incorporate competency-based curriculum to prepare workers with a skillset that is needed for employment in areas such as the refinery and process industries, among others, as projected by workforce needs. The program will also provide an opportunity for engineering technology associate degree holders to pursue opportunities and career paths as engineering technologists, helping close the gap between the Coastal Bend Workforce Development Area and the rest of the country.

“This grant provides an exciting opportunity for our faculty to develop a student-focused program that will leverage life experiences and can accelerate the completion of students’ degree programs,” said Dr. Kelly Quintanilla, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Interim President and CEO.

The Office of Distance Education and Learning Technologies at A&M-Corpus Christi will be working with faculty to develop these courses.

“Our faculty has grand ideas of what the students should be able to do, so we are able to design instruction that leads them to be able to do that,” said Dr. Lauren Cifuentes, Professor and Director of Distance Education and Learning Technologies. “Additionally, students can be tested in advance to be able to place out of their courses or to place out of an aspect of their courses, which has the potential to speed up their educational process.”

Tarleton State University will use its grant funds to evaluate and implement alternative credit courses to reduce costs and time-to-degree for students in its bachelor of science in applied science program.

South Texas College will partner with Austin Community College to create coursework, support services, and an articulation agreement for a 100 percent online, competency-based bachelor of applied technology degree in computer information technology.

Texas A&M University-Commerce will develop a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice as a hybrid competency-based online program for certified first responders, military personnel, and adult learners with criminal justice employment experience.

"At the Texas A&M University System, we are always looking for new ways to lower costs and increase options for our students,” said A&M System Chancellor John Sharp. “This initiative is a natural fit for us. I am so proud that three of our universities are on the leading edge of it, and I am grateful to the Coordinating Board and the funders for making it possible."

The Texas Affordable Baccalaureate program supports 60x30TX, the state’s higher education goals for completion, marketable skills, managing student debt and ensuring that at least 60 percent of Texans age 25-34 will have a college degree or certificate by 2030.