Initiated in Fall 2005, the Student Employment Initiative (SEI) is part of a retention and timely graduation strategy that recognizes the compelling need of students to work while attending college. The SEI was designed to integrate students into the campus environment and to help control the variables that could hinder academic progress because of off-campus work obligations through a rigorous, incentive-based model requiring accountability for academic performance, which include enrolling for at least 15 semester credit hours and maintaining a minimum 2.75 GPA. The SEI provides on-campus paid internship opportunities in a student’s program of study above and beyond traditional work-study. The SEI adds value to a student’s educational experience and places them in positions where they can grow as professionals and gain early exposure to a career or research in a field of interest. That success was recognized by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Star Award in December 2008. Further, the UTB is taking the lessons learned from the program and implementing them into a campus-wide initiative, turning all part-time positions into internships for students.
SEI’s mission to increase student retention and timely graduation has created meaningful work opportunities for students that facilitate learning and professional development, leadership skills, student-faculty engagement, and rigorous academic expectations driving students to maintain momentum toward timely degree completion.
Latinos represent 93% of UTB students. SEI has had a measurable impact on Latino student success. From fall 2005 to fall 2012, a total of 456 SEI students (out of 741) completed a bachelor’s degree. The average time to graduation has been reduced from 5.71 average years for the 2005-2006 cohorts to an average of 4.16 years for the 2011-2012 cohorts. Of the 231 FY’ 11-12 participants; 59 students completed a bachelor’s degree, 160 were retained, 10 transferred to other universities, and 2 did not return. This outcome resulted in 94.8% of the students either graduating or being retained, and demonstrates an overall persistence rate of 98%. The 59 graduates had an overall GPA of 3.34; averaged 4.16 years to complete their bachelor’s degree; had an average four-years (or less) graduation rate of 53% vs. the 17.51% institutional average; and had an average six-year (or less) graduation rate of 95% vs. the 42.7% institutional average. SEI has evolved from an initial Fall 2005 cohort of 75 students and an institutional investment worth $300,000 to a cohort of 200 students for Fall 2012 and a budget of $925,313.