UTPA pushing students to graduate faster

Graduation rates are up at the University of Texas Pan American, but students are in no hurry to graduate, driving up the cost of a college education by thousands of dollars.

Administrators from kindergarten all the way to college gathered in Edinburg on Tuesday to talk about how educators can get more students to graduate college faster.

President of UTPA Robert Nelsen says over the last three years, the graduation rate for freshman grew from 35.5 to 46 percent.

Is that enough, Nelsens asked. No, it's not even close,"

To improve the situation, educators want students to plan for college even earlier with transition to college coaches.

"They are encouraged to start looking at fields they like and are interested in early on when they are in the 8th or 9th grade, South Texas College, high school programs and services liaison Nick Gonzalez.

To reduce the cost of a college education administrators want to push dual enrollment, which allows high school students to take college courses for free.

"Students with dual enrollment courses do much better academically GPA and finish earlier than students that do not, Gonzalez said.

UTPA students tell me dual enrollment gives them the upper hand.

"It helped me learn how to study in college," Freshman Jose Elicondo said.

Elicondo graduated from Sharyland High School with 20 college credits.

"My teachers in high school were the ones that pushed me to do that, Junior Ana Karin Cardenas said. They helped a lot.

Cardenas plans to graduate from UTPA in just three years.

Chancellor of University of Texas system Francisco Cigarroa says an education today is more important than ever.

"The greatest gift we can give to our children is an outstanding education that can make them lifelong learners who can adapt to changing environments over their lifetime, Cigarroa said.