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University of Texas System

In the near term, the number one challenge facing Texas and The University of Texas System is to improve learning outcomes and completion rates of low-income and historically under-represented minority students, many of whom are Hispanic, recent immigrants, English language learners, and first-generation college students. These students often have severely limited support structures to help them succeed academically as they balance family, work, and their education.

Although the U.T. System continues to produce a record number of Hispanic graduates, graduation rates remain suboptimal and achievement gaps persist, which point to educational models and support systems that are not meeting the needs of this critical population.

In response, The University of Texas System developed the first of multiple industry-aligned, bilingual, personalized, and adaptive competency-based bachelor’s degree verticals, initially offered at The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, during the fall 2015 semester. A competency-based B.S. in Biomedical Science will prepare students for a career in the health sciences or enrollment in a graduate or professional program. In addition to improving student persistence and academic success, this competency-based vertical has the potential to make a college degree more affordable and accessible, shorten time-to-degree, and reduce student loan indebtedness.

In December 2014, the U.T. System's Office of Academic Affairs and Institute for Transformational Learning issued an RFP to develop at least eight additional competency-based, bilingual undergraduate degrees in engineering, information management, and business, which will be offered online and in a variety of hybrid formats. These high-impact verticals will subsequently be deployed as an affordable and effective option for non-traditional students across the University of Texas System. Producing growing numbers of graduates in these fields is essential for upward mobility and regional economic development not only in South Texas, but in West, Central, and North Texas as well.