Gulf Coast PASS Grant

The Gulf Coast Partnership for Achieving Student Success (GC PASS) initiative is in the first year of its three-year program. The initiative is designed to ensure more Texas students graduate high school ready for college rigor. It does so by focusing on fostering collaborative relationships between entities on both sides of the transition: independent school districts (ISDs) and community colleges.

The Institute for Evidence-Based Change and Houston A+ Challenge are partnering institutions in the GC PASS grant, which is funded by Houston Endowment and directed, coordinated and evaluated by The University of Texas at Austin's Student Success Initiatives.

Houston A+ Challenge Program Coordinators Betsy Breier and June Giddings work to help forge and strengthen the relationships between the community colleges and their partnering districts.

"Every partnership started out in a different place," Breier said. "In some cases, there was a pretty well-established partnership already going on. So this grant has just been moving them forward. For others, this is a newer concept. That's one of the challenges, but it's also what makes it interesting. Everybody is all over and we're trying to get them all to the same end point: Student success."

The GC PASS grant is active in eight community colleges: Brazosport College, College of the Mainland, Galveston College, Houston Community College System, Lee College, Lone Star College System, San Jacinto College District and Wharton County Junior College.

Based on size, each community college works with one or two ISDs, seen in the chart below.


Public K-12 School District(s)

Brazosport College

Brazosport ISD

College of the Mainland

Hitchcock ISD

Galveston College

Galveston ISD

Houston Community College System       

Houston ISD and Spring Branch ISD

Lee College

Goose Creek CISD

Lone Star College System

Cypress-Fairbanks ISD and Spring ISD

San Jacinto College District

Pasadena ISD and Sheldon ISD

Wharton County Junior College

Wharton ISD

Gulf Coast PASS Grant Collaborative Partners, 

These partnerships focus on aligning curriculum and student expectations; increasing access to dual enrollment; and improving student, parent and educator understanding of financial aid.

In working with the colleges and ISDs, Giddings said there is freedom in the grant for each institution to identify and work toward the end goals of increased college readiness and college access on their own terms.

"Everybody has a little different definition of college readiness," Giddings said. "What we've been trying to say is that when the grant goes away, we still need to do the work. You have to define what readiness looks like for your district."

One definite component to college readiness is a student's ability to handle the demands of college-level courses.

"The big overarching goal of the grant is to prepare more students to be college ready, which means they are ready to enter postsecondary without having to take developmental education classes."

This is currently not the case for the more than 200,000 students who tested into remedial courses when entering Texas colleges and universities this year. 

The grant's work has been in progress since early 2012. 

"Right now, we're working on creating baseline data," Giddings said. "From there, we'll look at each partnership and what their gains could possibly be. Some districts are graduating more students who are college and career ready than others, so those districts will be working on creating their own internal benchmarks to help increase that."

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Written by Alicia Wilson