Consortium of public research universities meets ten-year graduation goal

the University Innovation Alliance (UIA), a consortium of leading public research universities, published a report showing today that its member institutions have surpassed their ten-year graduation goal in just six years.

When it debuted in 2014, the eleven UIA universities announced their intention to graduate an additional 68,000 students above their projected ten-year graduation rates. They also pledged that half of these additional graduates would come from low-income backgrounds.

Today, after just six years, UIA member institutions have exceeded this target by graduating 73,573 additional students, increasing the annual number of graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds by 36% and graduates of color by 73%. Of the additional graduates, 55% were low-income students and 60% were students of color.

Following this success, UIA institutions have now increased their target, predicting that they will attain a total of 136,000 students by 2023 – double the initial target launched on the Day of Action. of President Obama’s College Opportunity of Action in 2014.

UIA founding members

The UIA was created to solve two stubborn problems in higher education: 1) insufficient production of enough high-quality graduates across the socio-economic spectrum to meet the future economic competitiveness needs of the United States. , and 2) a tendency for universities to work in isolation, resulting in the failure of many promising interventions to reach a reasonable scale. According to the report, “the 11 UIA members also shared the belief that higher education doesn’t have to be like this, and they came together to test that idea.

The founding members of the UIA are Arizona State University, Georgia State University, Iowa State University, University of Michigan, Ohio State University, Oregon State University, Purdue University, University of California at Riverside, University of Central Florida, University of Kansas, and University of Texas at Austin. The Alliance’s financial support is provided by several private foundations.

UIA innovations in practice

Over the past six years, UIA institutions have focused on several interventions aimed at improving student success.

  • They started by building a strong predictive analytics capability. Predictive analytics was in its infancy at many institutions, but they have strengthened their analytics tools, based on contributions from other UIA members, Georgia State University and Arizona State University.
  • Building on these tools, they introduced intrusive counseling practices, providing students with individualized academic maps and real-time early alerts to keep them on track. Controlled experiments at Georgia State, Purdue, and the University of Texas showed that students receiving more intensive counseling had significant increases in credits earned and better GPAs than students without such counseling.
  • In 2017, the UIA began testing the impact of small completion scholarships – scholarships under $ 1,000 awarded to students nearing graduation but in need of modest financial assistance. to graduate. Over three academic years, the 11 institutions awarded completion scholarships to nearly 5,000 students in total. More than 83% of these students at risk of dropping out remained enrolled or graduated in two terms. And during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, 1,116 students received completion scholarships to help them stay enrolled and on track. (As a guide for other institutions, the UIA has introduced a Completion Grants Manual.)
  • The UIA has launched an initiative to rethink career services to better support low-income students, first-generation students and students of color. For example, the University of Central Florida has encouraged faculty to incorporate professional skills into their curriculum and assignments. The aim was to help students better explain their skills and abilities in applications and interviews. Faculty members worked with career guidance staff to revamp their courses to include new elements such as writing a cover letter. Students who took the revamped courses reported an increase in self-confidence and said they were more likely to apply and get internships, and faculty gave the program high marks as well.

Overall, the work of the UIA has shown that with the right focus and collaboration, institutions can scale up effective innovations. In many cases, the process of introducing, evaluating and revising an intervention has led individual institutions to reorganize their own policies.

As Alexander Cartwright, president of the University of Central Florida (UCF), explained to me in an email, “UCF is committed to fostering the success of students from all walks of life and our UIA membership is a great resource. Whether it’s career guidance, counseling, financial aid or our faculty engagement in predictive analytics: the benefits of this partnership have helped us achieve better and better results. results for our students.

Kim Wilcox, President of the University of California at Riverside (UCR), said: “When it comes to innovation for student success, being a UIA member is the most valuable experience in higher education. UCR students have greatly benefited from the collaborative work of the Alliance.

For the next stage of its work, UIA schools plan to test the use of artificial intelligence-powered chatbots to improve communication with students and ultimately increase retention. And the alliance will redouble its efforts to improve outcomes for students of color by “adding selected new institutions that are particularly committed to expanding access and achievement.” The UIA also intends to extend its reach to other institutions beyond its network, as it seeks to “initiate a real transformation in higher education”.

Two universities join the Alliance

Along with the announcement of reaching its initial graduation goal, the UIA also revealed that two new universities are joining the Alliance, the first expansion of the initiative since its founding. the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and North Carolina State Agricultural and Technical University (NC A&T) are the two new members.

In UIAs Press release, Michael Crow, founding president of the University Innovation Alliance and president of Arizona State University, said, “Building on our knowledge and the valuable lessons learned in 2020, we are delighted to grow our prolific network with the help from UMBC and NC A&T, two exceptional institutions that fully understand what better academic outcomes mean for learners and America’s future.

“We are delighted to join forces with ambitious and innovative peer institutions that share our commitment to reinventing what we do to be student-centered and transforming the future of higher education so that every student can succeed.” Said Harold L. Martin, Sr., Chancellor of North Carolina A&T. “Our university has made great strides in these areas over the past decade, and we look forward to sharing our approaches and engaging with others on innovation that could lead to further success.”

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