Officials of Tyler Junior College and The University of Texas at Tyler signed an agreement on Friday that will strengthen the partnership between their respective Promise scholarship programs.
TJC and UT Tyler will work collaboratively to ease the transfer of eligible students participating in the TJC Promise and the UT Tyler Patriot Promise programs, which will enable more East Texas students to attain their educational goals and enter the 21st century workforce.
By achieving the standards of the TJC Promise program during all four years at a participating East Texas high school and while attending TJC, eligible students can earn scholarships that cover tuition and fees and dedicated support services at TJC. Eligible students can then meet the requirements of the UT Tyler Patriot Promise program, thus benefiting from financial assistance of tuition and fees while attending UT Tyler.
Dr. Deana Sheppard, TJC provost and vice president for academic and student affairs, said, “We are so very proud of the success of our Promise program. We’ve seen students come out of high school and into TJC, and they are performing very well compared to their non-Promise counterparts. We are equally proud that they have the opportunity and the potential to transfer and have that same support at UT Tyler.”
She continued, “We’re all working hard to reach our communities and our students, but we still know that in the state of Texas, only about 40 percent of individuals get a higher ed credential. Also, in Texas, a student has an average debt of about $31,000; and in 2019, we were at an all-time high for students taking out loans — not grants but loans that they will have to pay back at some point.”
Marie Salazar of Ben Wheeler, a TJC Promise student, earned her associate degree in public relations and advertising from TJC and plans to transfer to UT Tyler to finish her baccalaureate degree.
“A lot of students don’t even consider going to college because they’re so afraid of debt,” Salazar said. “But with TJC offering this program, that’s not an issue they have to worry about. I’m a first-generation college student and, coming from a low-income family, paying for college was one of the things that I personally was concerned about. My parents told me, ‘You’re going to college regardless, and we’ll figure it out.’ But with TJC offering that scholarship, it was just a weight taken off our shoulders. I could just concentrate on my studies without the weight of debt.”
Front, from left: Dr. Deana Sheppard, TJC provost and vice president of academic and student affairs and chief academic officer; James I. Perkins, founder, Rusk TJC Citizens Promise; Dr. Juan E. Mejia, TJC president and CEO; Dr. Kirk A. Calhoun, UT Tyler president; Margaret Perkins, founder, Rusk TJC Citizens Promise; Dr. Amir Mirmiran, UT Tyler provost and executive vice president of academic affairs; second row, Dr. Archie Tucker II, UT Tyler senior vice president of university advancement; Kim Lessner, TJC vice president of operations and chief operations officer; Kevin Fowler, TJC executive director of regional community engagement; Stephanie Fenter, UT Tyler chief of staff and vice president of strategic planning; Ona Toliver, UT Tyler senior vice president of student success; Sarah Van Cleef, TJC vice president of financial and administrative affairs and chief financial officer; and Mitch Andrews, TJC vice president of institutional advancement and executive director of the TJC Foundation.
Dr. Amir Mirmiran, UT Tyler provost, said, “Today we celebrate our partnership with TJC, with whom we share a common name: Tyler, and Promise Scholarship is our joint commitment to our Tyler community. Education is an engine for social mobility, and Promise Scholarship is an investment in our community with a game-changing impact.”
TJC President Dr. Juan E. Mejia said, “It’s a great day when we have two powerhouse institutions of higher learning all in the same room. We should remain steadfast to our values and strategic plans, knowing that we are about to do many more great things for our communities. How can we do it better? Through our authentic partnerships. One hundred percent of the community leaders I come across share that they love the collaboration between our beloved institutions, especially because many of them happen to be or have family who are alumni of both of TJC and UT Tyler. We are committed to having the best Apache Patriots in this entire world, right here and right now.”
UT Tyler President Dr. Kirk A. Calhoun said, “The relationship between TJC and UT Tyler is special. We understand the obligation we share in regard to educating our community. As a result, this is just one of several collaborative opportunities that will demonstrate how well we work together to ensure the students in our region and state earn degrees.”