Fort Bend Chamber Luncheon spotlights Houston GPS Alliance
Creating pathways to help students succeed at Houston-area community colleges and four-year institutions through strategies developed by the Houston Guided Pathways to Success (GPS) Alliance was the focus of discussion at the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce membership luncheon held Feb. 7.
The Houston GPS Alliance includes 11 community colleges and four-year universities in the greater Houston area that are working together to increase graduation rates and improve outcomes for students, Dr. Teri Longacre, Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Student Success for the University of Houston said.
“One of the really important aspects of this work is to make sure when a student is transferring from a two-year (community college) to a four-year (university) within Houston GPS, they do so without any wasted credit. So, we made some really important changes.” Longacre said. “By bringing people together from each department, we made an impact in ensuring students are taking courses that are going to apply to their degrees.”
Partner schools, who once saw each other as competitors for students, now work together toward common goals, Dr. Betty Fortune, Executive Director of Success and Completion for Houston Community College said.
“For me at the community college, one of the most remarkable things about this whole initiative was the fact that educators in higher education began to understand that we were no longer competing, but that we ought to be partners,” Fortune said.
Institutions members of Houston GPS Alliance include the University of Houston, University of Houston-Clear Lake, University of Houston-Downtown, University of Houston-Victoria, Houston Community College System, Texas Southern University, College of the Mainland, Lone Star College System, San Jacinto College District, Victoria College and Wharton County Junior College.
The concept for the alliance was created in 2015 when Tom Sugar, former president of Complete College America and now vice president at EAB, an educational technology services company, met and collaborated with Paula Short, senior vice chancellor for academic affairs for the University of Houston System, to develop new initiatives to help students succeed.
After years of planning and developing these strategies, Sugar said his company was hoping to expand on the success created in the Houston area to pursue even-more ambitious educational goals.
“As we approach the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing, I see the equivalent of reaching the moon as permanently eliminating equity gaps in higher education,” Sugar said. “For so long we’ve looked at the achievement gaps by race, income and first generation stats and said ‘That’s a bridge too far’. But, that’s not true anymore. We have the technology, the leadership wherewithal. We know the best practices. We are owning the metrics and we can bring these forces together, if we want to, to eliminate equity gaps within a decade.”
To accomplish this goal, Sugar said his company was planning to invest $25 million into educational initiatives facilitated via partnerships with Houston GPS and similar programs in other cities to eliminate equity gaps within ten years.
For more information about the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce and information about upcoming events, visit www.fortbendchamber.com