July 02, 2012 16:33 ET

Finish@UT Scholarships Help Three College "Stop Outs" Complete Undergraduate Degrees

University of Texas System Online Program Paves Way for Many Texans to Complete College Degrees

AUSTIN, TX--(Marketwire - Jul 2, 2012) - Gerry Schriever, Kelly Downey and Phillip Martinez, like many Texans, dreamed of a college diploma yet their personal road blocks prevented them from putting on the cap and gown. They will get closer to that ceremony as winners of a video contest which will award each of them up to $20,000 in scholarship funds to be applied to tuition for the Finish@UT program.

Finish@UT offers students a flexible and affordable path to completion of their undergraduate degree through three System institutions, with all coursework to be completed online. The online program was created for students who have earned some college credits as a flexible and affordable path to completion of their undergraduate degree without compromising the quality of their education. With accelerated 7- to 15-week courses, Finish@UT offers adults the ability to take courses during times and at locations convenient for students. 

At age 45, Schriever yearned to be a role model for his 12-year-old daughter. Furthermore, he wanted to make a difference in the lives of children in Austin as a counselor, which he recognized required a diploma from a four-year college.

Downey, age 41, of Coleman, Texas, is seeking her bachelor's degree in multi-disciplinary studies so she can get a teaching certificate and fulfill her passion for working with deaf and hard of hearing children. She had already completed 117 hours from Tarrant County College, before she had to take a break from her studies.

Martinez, a 52-year-old San Antonio veteran with PTSD, explained in his heartfelt video why he wants to help his fellow soldiers upon completion of his degree. His passion proves it's never too late and no obstacle is too big to complete your degree.

Studies show that 45 percent of students at four-year universities work 20 hours or more a week, which can greatly impede the chance for them to successfully complete their studies in four years. Furthermore, 23 percent of all college students have children. Challenges like these contribute to the fact that while most students have a strong desire to complete their college degree, there are significant obstacles.

"A college degree is often a critical step towards fulfilling professional and personal goals," said Martha Ellis, Ph.D., Associate Vice Chancellor Community College Partnerships for the System. "Finish@UT was designed for those aspiring college graduates for whom getting to the campus and meeting the traditional college schedule can be a struggle. It's wonderful that we can help the Finish@UT video contest winners, and so many others, to achieve their dreams by making the diploma more accessible."

A comprehensive website has been created to provide potential students easy access to the information they need to return to finish their degree -- offers more information about the program, and features the winning videos.

Schriever, Downey and Martinez won the video contest and the scholarship funds based on popular votes for their online videos. The Top 10 videos with the most votes were viewed and judged by Finish@UT appointed judges who picked the three winners based on the personal stories they relayed and their sincere desire to complete their degrees.

About The University of Texas System
The University of Texas System is one of the nation's largest higher education systems, with nine academic universities and six health institutions. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $13.1 billion (FY 2012) including $2.3 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. Preliminary student enrollment exceeded 215,000 in the 2011 academic year. The UT System confers more than one-third of the state's undergraduate degrees and educates nearly three-fourths of the state's health care professionals annually. With roughly 87,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.

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