This fall, Texas State will be one of 19 Hispanic Serving Institutions receiving a collective $12.2 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Education.
The university received $456,387 for the first year of the grant and will apply the funds toward mentoring and other programs for the Personalized Academic and Career Exploration (PACE) Center. Of the institutions receiving funds, Texas State received the smallest award. Evelina Gonzales, senior proposal coordinator for the office of the vice president of research, said the university requested as much funding as was needed, and the request was fulfilled almost entirely.
“We’re happy with what we got, and it was close to what we asked for,” Gonzales said.
Universities qualify as Hispanic Serving Institutions when 25 percent of their enrollment meets that demographic. When the status is acquired, universities qualify for additional grants from the U.S. Department of Education.
Gonzales said the amount the university will receive during its first year of the grant is just a portion of funding that could potentially total $2.3 million. The grant lasts for five years, and the award amount will be dependent upon how much money is available in the federal budget.
Because the program is cyclical, Gonzales said the university will not be able to reapply for the same grant until the last year of funding five years from now.
Funds received from this award will be used for programs at the PACE Center, Gonzales said. These programs will be aimed at ensuring the success of undergraduate students and teaching financial literacy.
“Freshmen oftentimes get into debt in their first year of college because they don’t understand how they’re living on their own and how they’re supposed to budget,” Gonzales said. “They don’t understand financial aid, they take their entire award when they get it, and that causes them to have a lot of debt at the end of their time here, so it’s going to help coach them on how to manage that.”
Dan Brown, director of the PACE Center, said he was pleased to hear about the award.
“I was excited. This was very competitive this year,” Brown said. “To have been funded was a real positive piece of news.”
Brown said the financial literacy program the grant will help fund comes at a good time for freshmen to learn how to manage their finances.
“College costs are increasing and we want to help our students make wise choices about how to use their money during college and how to use their financial aid,” Brown said. “Helping them learn more about that when they’re 18 will help them a great deal by the time they are 30, 40 and 50.”
The mentoring program, which the grant will also fund, will be based on a peer-to-peer relationship, Brown said. He said having successful existing students available to assist incoming students would provide a more relatable perspective.
“(The existing students) will meet with them individually or in small groups, talk with them about opportunities to get involved and help them get questions or problems resolved. It’s another line of assistance,” Brown said. “One of the really interesting facts about higher education is that messages about what it takes to be successful sometimes come better from a peer than they come from someone like me. It’s much more relevant to a freshman.”