GRAND PRAIRIE — A roomful of pre-kindergartners fidgeted politely in their seats Tuesday as UT Arlington President Vistasp Karbhari helped launch the expansion of an initiative designed to get more kids into college.Under Bound for Success, the University of Texas at Arlington will offer automatic admission to the top 25 percent of Grand Prairie juniors upon completion of their college preparatory diplomas and Texas Success Initiatives. Karbhari also announced a similar initiative in Mansfield on Tuesday.Though the program in Grand Prairie targets juniors, the district wants students thinking about college early. The kids at Bonham Early Education Center, who wore T-shirts that read “Class of 2027 rocks,” listened as Karbhari and Grand Prairie Superintendent Susan Hull signed a memorandum of understanding to start the program.“This will take the dreams from the very young and make sure those dreams become a reality,” Karbhari said.Alisha Crumley is the principal at the early education center, which serves families in need that might not think college is an option for their children.“You have to start somewhere,” Crumley said, pointing to a hallway poster highlighting top colleges in the area. “We plant the seed when they are young, and they develop from there.”Pipelines in Grand Prairie High school juniors will be notified as early as fall if they are eligible to attend UTA automatically upon graduation. They will receive special invitations to UTA events and counseling to prepare them for college during the rest of their high school years.UTA admissions advisers will spend four days a week at each high school helping students with admissions, financial aid and housing applications. The university will also offer three evening college workshops and three evening financial aid workshops for each high school each year. “Working with the community has always been a hallmark of UT Arlington,” Karbhari said.He said the Grand Prairie school district wanted options for all its students, so UTA is giving them three chances:• Place in the top 25 percent for automatic admission.• Make at least 1050 on the SAT or 22 on the ACT.• Score in the 900-1040 range on the SAT (or similar scores on the ACT), and earn some credit within the Tarrant County College or Dallas Community College system.The university is still working out the specifics.Bound for Success started with the Arlington school district in November. Together, the Mansfield, Grand Prairie and Arlington districts represent 125,000 students and their families. The Fort Worth district superintendent was also scheduled to sign an agreement with Karbhari on Tuesday, but the announcement was delayed.Mansfield opens several paths Mansfield’s rules are a little different.Juniors must be in the top 20 percent of their class as well as earn college preparatory diplomas and meet the Texas Success Initiatives for automatic admission.The partnership also includes a dual-credit opportunity through the engineering and criminal justice programs at the Ben Barber Career and Technology Academy.Students in the Project Lead the Way science, technology, engineering and math sequence can earn dual credit from UT Arlington’s College of Engineering. When students graduate from high school and enter UTA, those credits would apply to their engineering courses.Mansfield junior Austin Macleod, who is enrolled in the Ben Barber engineering program, was excited Tuesday morning. “I’m glad to have this opportunity to go to UT Arlington. I’m also glad to have the opportunity to transfer credit to anywhere I end up going which is really nice. I’ll definitely remember UT Arlington for helping me this way,” Macleod said in a prepared statement.Mansfield juniors can also participate in dual-credit courses through the university’s criminology and criminal justice program and the district’s law, public safety, corrections and security program.Two students in the engineering dual-credit program will be selected to receive $2,500 scholarships to UT Arlington from Mouser Electronics, a global distributor of semiconductors and electronic components.Two students in the criminal justice program will get $1,000 scholarships to UT Arlington through the Mansfield ISD Education Foundation’s new criminal justice scholarship.
Monica S. Nagy, 817-390-7792 Twitter:@MonicaNagyFWST