Diversity & Democracy: Civic Learning for Shared Futures
Diversity Innovations Institutional Leadership and Commitment
Diversity Digest Volume 7, Number 3

Diversity Digest
Volume 7,
Number 3

Download our print issue (PDF)
Diversity News
Diversity and Democracy:
the Unfinished Work
Dimensions of Diversity: Legal Lessons from the Decisions
Institutional Leadership and Commitment
Longhorn Scholars and the Opportunity Scholarship Program
Bridging the Gap: The ACE Program in Arizona
Aimed for Success: Meyerhoff Scholars Program
Campus Community Involvement
UCLA’s Success in Reaching Out
Student Experience
Rallying for Affirmative Action:
A Student Perspective
The Class is Half Empty: Report Supports Class-based Affirmative Action
Affirmative Action Resources

Longhorn Scholars Program Opens Avenues for Underrepresented
Students in Texas

By Kathy Goodman, communications associate, AAC&U

The University of Texas at Austin President Larry Faulkner and Longhorn Scholars at the 2002 Longhorn Scholars Welcome Reception.

The University of Texas at Austin President Larry Faulkner and Longhorn Scholars at the 2002 Longhorn Scholars Welcome Reception.

Demonstrating its commitment to access and opportunity in response to a state ban on affirmative action in admissions and financial aid, the University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin) designed a program that combines outreach with a strong academic program for underserved students. The Longhorn Scholars Program at UT-Austin assists the best graduates from high schools historically underrepresented at the university and provides significant support in the form of scholarship funding, academic advising, and challenging academic opportunities.

Longhorn Opportunity Scholarship
Students participate in the program by invitation only and must be awarded one of three qualifying scholarships based on academic achievement, financial hardship, and status as a graduate of a selected Texas high school whose graduates have historically been underrepresented at UT-Austin. The Longhorn Opportunity Scholarship (LOS), in particular, is awarded to students in economically disadvantaged and historically underserved high schools in Texas. Since 1999, nearly 1,200 qualifying scholarships have been awarded, with 1,100 of these being four-year awards. Dollars awarded to students in the freshman year alone have totaled nearly $4 million.

According to their Web site, LOS is not merely a scholarship at the UT-Austin:

"…the program has served as the catalyst for the creation of a comprehensive academic community development package with a three-fold aim: to identify students who might not have otherwise had the opportunity to attend the University; to deploy University resources to attract these students to Austin; and most importantly, to give these students the resources and attention that will help them to succeed academically and ultimately become alumni of The University of Texas at Austin."

This scholarship and the related Longhorn Scholars Program exemplify UT-Austin’s commitment to provide opportunities based on “proportional representation and recruitment from an economic, community-based perspective rather than focusing solely on statewide academic competition or personal characteristics such as ethnicity.”

Focus on Student Success
In addition to their university-appointed academic advisor, students in these programs are assigned an advisor from the program who helps them make the most of their undergraduate education. The students are encouraged to take interdisciplinary classes and to participate in research with faculty. They also have the benefit, in some instances, of smaller classes taught by professors recognized for their outstanding teaching. The Longhorn Scholars Program also features events throughout the year designed to encourage students to get to know faculty and staff outside of the classroom.

According to UT-Austin Provost Sheldon Ekland-Olson, students are “thriving and enjoying the enriched opportunities.” When asked about the benefits of being a Longhorn Scholar, he stated:

"First and foremost is the scholarship money that comes with the designation. There are varying levels of support, ranging from four-year scholarships, to first-year support. Second, Longhorn Scholars are supported by enriched advising, about double the per capita staff as other programs, and various academic opportunities connected with the Longhorn Scholars Honors program. These include selective participation in a semester in Washington D.C., a range of study-abroad options, and support for participation in our Bridging Disciplines Program, which includes curricular concentrations such as Environmental Studies, Ethics and Leadership, Population and Public Policy, and Children and Society.

The Longhorn Scholars Program is just one part of Connexus, an initiative of the Provost’s Office. The Connexus initiative is an umbrella for a variety of programs that traverse boundaries between colleges and disciplines and “provide opportunities for all undergraduates to avail themselves of resources related to research, funding, career development, faculty, mentoring, and community.” Other Connexus programs include learning communities, interdisciplinary courses, scholarships, research opportunities, freshman seminars, and more. According to the provost, “together they provide a well-defined, supportive, and demanding academic environment.” The consistent emphasis on learning raises the level of student accomplishment.
The Longhorn Scholars Program, like other programs within Connexus, is designed to increase student achievement by linking resources that benefit all aspects of student life, including academic achievement, career exploration, financial aid, and personal growth. By attending to these many aspects, the Longhorn Scholars Program significantly improves the chances of student success. There can be little doubt that this aspect of the program is effective and beneficial. As Dr. Ekland-Olson states it, “Having a space to come to, enriched advising, demanding courses, and enriched academic opportunities all help.”

Increased Diversity
The Longhorn Program also contributes to the diversity of the student body. According to Dr. Ekland-Olson, “The ethnic diversity of the Longhorn Scholars Program is very rich, approximately 25 percent African American, 55 percent Hispanic, 10 percent Asian, and 10 percent Anglo.” The program is successful in reaching out to a variety of communities and underserved students without using the traditional means of affirmative action. However, racially attentive measures are important to the program’s success in recruiting students of color. “As of 2002, seventy high schools scattered throughout Texas have been chosen to participate in the LOS program. These schools were included based on criteria that takes into account their students’ historical under-representation, measured in terms of a significantly lower than average percentage of college entrance exams sent to the University by students from this particular school, and an average parental income of less than $35,000.”1 In 1999, 135 freshmen entered UT-Austin as Longhorn Scholars, and in Fall 2003, the University expects 282 freshmen to enter through this program. In its first five years, the Longhorn Scholars program has enrolled nearly 1,200 UT freshmen.

Thus far, the program has been an asset to students and to the entire UT community. Undoubtedly, programs like the Longhorn Scholars Program will lead to some successes and some failures, and one can hope that through the process of iteration colleges and universities will find the best ways to reach out to underserved populations and contribute to their academic achievement. Certainly, the Longhorn Scholars program illustrates just one of many excellent possibilities.

Information about Longhorn Scholars and Connexus can be found online at
www.utexas.edu/student/connexus/ scholars/index.html.

1. www.utexas.edu/ student/finaid/scholarships/los_hschools.html.

Questions, comments, and suggestions regarding Diversity & Democracy should be directed to Kathryn Peltier Campbell at campbell@aacu.org.
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