2019–20 Annual Report - University of Houston
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Student Success

Students pursuing degrees at the University of Houston face many challenges — some they may find insurmountable. But the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Services is dedicated to helping students succeed, all the way from enrollment to graduation.

We advocate for everyone from future Coogs to those who have joined the UH community. We also help with scholarships, financial aid, and employment, while also providing academic opportunities that will empower students — especially those more vulnerable populations — to achieve academic, personal and professional success.

Year 1: Diamond Family Scholars starts off with a success

student at stadium

The inaugural class of Diamond Family Scholars celebrated the first year of the program in style with a trip to New York City — just as COVID-19 began to spread across the United States. The first cohort, made up of six students from Texas, may have found their spring break trip disrupted by a global pandemic, but it couldn’t stop their excitement — or enthusiasm for the program that is transforming their lives.

The trip was courtesy of Houston philanthropists Andy and Andrea Diamond, who made an astounding $17 million gift in 2019 to create the program bearing their name. The Diamond Family Scholars serves students who have aged out of the foster care system, offering financial aid and other support services to boost their chances of success.

“We want to create hope for those aging out of foster care,” Andy Diamond said about their gift. “Their circumstances are beyond their control. Now, however, those who want to help themselves will have an opportunity to do so. Success is defined not by a gift, but rather by hard work and determination.”

More than 23,000 youth a year nationally age out of the foster care system when they turn 18, according to the National Foster Youth Institute. Experts say few have the outside support, both financial and emotional, that can be crucial to college success.

“This is a special population of students,” said Richard Walker, vice president for student affairs and enrollment services. “We want to make sure these students stay in school and that we are providing them the support they need.”

Year 1 of the program was an astounding success. Three of the six students were named to the Dean’s List. One was invited to join the Honors College. The overall spring semester GPA for the group was 3.5.

One student in the first class said the program offered her an amazing opportunity that will help her succeed.

“The Diamond Family Scholars program gave me the resources to flourish as a freshman in college, offering a home to grow and seek guidance to ensure success,” Maddie Couling said. “It has given me a space to explore who I can be with a new family by my side.”

Couling joined the Honors College in January and is majoring in health communications. “Most scholarships, they just give you money and send you on your way,” she said. “I didn’t anticipate how much of a family we would become. How much we would hang out.”

The project focuses on improving success rates — from recruiting to retention and graduation and a group will be selected each year. The program includes the opportunity to live together in a living and learning community at Cougar Village, and the expanded services, including enhanced advising and mentoring, will be available to all UH students who have been in the foster care system.

Andrea Diamond said she and her husband ask only that Diamond Family Scholars pay it forward in the future. “Sometime down the road, give another person in need hope and opportunity,” she said.

Between 60 and 100 UH students self-identify as graduates of the foster care system every year. The group has a current four-year graduation rate of 37 percent; the program has targeted a graduation rate of 60 percent after the first four years, with a long-term goal of 80 percent.

Housed in the University’s Urban Experience Program under the leadership of UEP Director Raven Jones, the program helps students tap all established resources, using the endowment to fill the gaps.

The Year 2 cohort is already underway. The program has interviewed new students and have offered six incoming freshmen the opportunity to join the Diamond Family Scholars.

Enrollment Services overhauls operations, goes virtual

UH Welcome Center

A transition to virtual orientation, an overhauled summer and fall class schedule, more than $26 million awarded in emergency grant assistance, and a new campus-wide COVID-19 training. What do all of these have in common? They’re just a handful of the accomplishments made by our highly adaptable and fiercely dedicated Enrollment Services team.

Over the last seven months, the challenges faced by the University of Houston’s Enrollment Services team has seemed, at times, insurmountable. How do we evaluate prospective students who aren’t able to take the SAT or ACT test? How do we successfully transition students in federal work-study jobs to remote operations? How do we process students’ requests to change their grades in accordance with the interim grade policy? How do we communicate all these evolving changes with prospective students, newly admitted students, current students, and other stakeholders?

The answer? Collaboration, strong leadership, and creative problem-solving.

As the country began to close in spring, the Enrollment Services team quickly pivoted in-person appointments to virtual appointments in an effort to continue to serve students amid the pandemic. From March to the end of August, the team held more than 5,000 of these virtual appointments. They assisted students with questions and issues around admissions, financial aid, adding or dropping classes, and much more.

Enrollment Services’ virtual presence continues to evolve now that each department has set its own foundation. Traditionally, the Office of Admissions relied on in-person experiences to engage and connect with new and prospective students. Now, Admissions has a robust virtual tour offering, ranging from academic college sessions to one-on-one zoom calls with current students. New Student Orientation has been completely transformed to be an entirely virtual event. Taking what they’ve learned from spring, the Admissions team is offering their very first all virtual Cougar Preview this fall.

Another major initiative was the launch of the new test optional policy, allowing prospective students to apply without an SAT or ACT score. This had a lot of moving parts, including implementing a self-report GPA functionality and adjusting our traditional scholarship selection process. Enrollment Services Research and Reporting collected and analyzed the data that made it all possible.

The Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid took on the monumental task of distributing more than $26 million in emergency grant assistance to students in need. They also transitioned all eligible federal work study students to working remotely and awarded Emergency Federal Work Study Grants to eligible students that were unable to work due to the pandemic.

Students faced several new obstacles this year, including the uncertainty of whether they would be able to take classes on campus. The Office of the University Registrar worked tirelessly to completely reengineer the Fall 2020 class schedule and introduce students to three new instruction formats: HyFlex, Asynchronous, and Synchronous. They also processed requests for grade changes due to the interim grading policy, providing flexibility as students transitioned to online classes.

As a limited number of students, staff, and faculty began to return to campus, it became necessary to ensure that all students undergo a COVID-19 training and acknowledgements. In just under two weeks, Campus Solutions Services successfully launched Activity Guides, making the training available to over 80,000+ students across the UH System. This department also played a major role in many of the other Enrollment Services accomplishments.

Throughout the year, the Office of Integrated Enrollment Services led efforts to contact students facing new, pandemic-related barriers to finishing their degrees or enrolling at the University. For example, in early March, they reached out to every student who requested a withdrawal from the University, identifying issues and solving problems to keep each student in school. For students who needed additional help enrolling, they implemented a robust plan to reopen the Welcome Center with limited capacity in the fall, keeping our staff and students’ safety at the forefront of this endeavor.

The Enrollment Services Communications and Marketing department played a key role in contributing to each department’s needs by offering continuous support and guidance. They also made sure students at every stage of the enrollment funnel stayed informed, giving them clear and concise communication, all while assuring the students that we are, in fact, all in this together.

These are just a few tasks undertaken by the Enrollment Services team in the last seven months. Team members have truly thrived in times when just the smallest day-to-day tasks seemed impossible.

By the Numbers

We offer a number of services and programs to help students succeed at the University of Houston. These are examples of the ways we have helped students achieve academic, personal and professional success over the 2019-2020 Fiscal Year.

  • 14,464 Total number of students and alumni served by University Career Services (one-on-one/ drop-in counseling appointments/virtual chats, alumni & college-based outreach)

  • 1,186 Number of student conduct cases referred to the Dean of Students, a drop of 316 referrals from the year before

  • 617,813 Total semester credit hours for Fall 2019, Spring 2020 and Summer 2020 processed by the Office of the University Registrar

  • 70 UH staff members trained by the Money Matters Institute in Integrated Enrollment Services since it launched in 2018.

  • 63% Percentage of FTIC applicants admitted to UH

  • 260,005 Total calls received by the Enrollment Services Call Center

  • 34.07% FTIC students in Top 10% of high school class

  • 34,494 Total FTIC applications