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APLU & USU Join Forces with Eight Public Universities to Advance Student Success through Community-University Partnerships

September 13, 2018

Washington, DC – As public universities aim to develop new strategies to improve student success, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) today announced grants to eight public universities supporting the piloting and scaling of university-community partnerships focused on advancing student success. The grants, known as Collaborative Opportunity Grants, are supported with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and will support the institutions’ efforts to leverage community partnerships as a means of improving students’ access to, success in, and completion of college.

The institutions being awarded grants are working to tackle the obstacles facing students with innovative and dynamic new approaches,” said Shari Garmise, Vice President of APLU’s Office of Urban Initiatives. “As these institutions have shown, tackling challenges is often most effectively done through partnerships with other community stakeholders that bring added resources and insights. And we’re finding that substantial student success gains can be achieved through that collaboration.”

Four of the eight institutions awarded grants are receiving initial funding from APLU and USU to advance community-university partnerships that improve student success. After being awarded initial Collaborative Opportunity Grants in 2017, the other four institutions are receiving additional funding to expand and enhance projects they already have underway. All eight institutions will each receive $50,000 to collaborate, accelerate, and improve implementation efforts. They will also receive support and resources from APLU and USU to scale their efforts.

The four institutions receiving funding for the first time are the University of Cincinnati, George Mason University, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and Wayne State University. The four institutions that have previously received Collaborative Opportunity Grants are: California State University, Fresno; Cleveland State University; the University of Memphis; and the University of South Alabama.

In addition to having to collaborate with an external partner and align with investment priorities, the grantees had to show that their program is an emerging approach to student success and demonstrate that their institution has capacity to sustain and scale the effort. The grantees also had to outline a quantitative and qualitative assessment plan to track the program’s efficacy.

Below are overviews of the programs undertaken by grantee institutions that are receiving their first Collaborative Opportunity Grants.

The University of Cincinnati is collaborating with Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) to create an integrated engagement environment for students transitioning from high school to college. Rather than treating the senior year of high school and the first year of college as two distinct experiences, the effort will help harmonize college transition programs in CPS and at the University of Cincinnati. The new joint initiative will help students prepare for and adjust to college by cultivating a sense of community, building shared understandings, and integrating and bolstering support systems.

George Mason University is working with Northern Virginia Community College to support degree pathways in the three key sectors of technology, health, and education. The effort will work to eliminate transfer barriers for community college students and create streamlined pathways toward bachelor’s degree completion in high-demand industries. Working with area employers, the institutions are designing new degree pathways across the institutions as they work to build students’ skills and competencies in the burgeoning fields of technology, health, and education.

The University of Texas at San Antonio is partnering with the Alamo Community College District and other community stakeholders to improve mathematics curriculum and align their math instruction across the area’s K-16 systems. The effort will include a collaborative workspace for educators working to develop aligned standards, assessments, educational resources. The initiative will also provide the professional development necessary to improve curriculum at participating high schools so more students arrive on campus prepared for college-level math coursework.

Wayne State University is partnering with the Detroit Regional Chamber and other community stakeholders to re-engage adult students who have completed some college but left school with no degree through a new public information service with informational resources about higher education opportunities in the area. Using artificial intelligence, the service will serve as a platform for prospective students to ask questions about college 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week through Facebook Messenger. The effort is part of a much broader partnership between Wayne State University and the Detroit Regional Chamber to support adult learners and make progress toward Detroit-wide goals to boost college attainment.

Below are overviews of the grantee institutions’ Collaborative Opportunity Grants that have been extended to support scaling up of the efforts:

California State University, Fresno is continuing its work bringing together high school math teachers and university math faculty to align and improve math teaching. The teachers and faculty co-wrote course materials for a new entry-level math course targeting liberal arts students. The K-16 team is expanding to include five new math faculty as well as graduate students who will teach new math labs. Following an executive order issued by the California State University System’s chancellor in 2017 that will end remedial math offerings effective fall 2018, the math course and lab will help enhance the university’s entry-level math offerings.

Progress to date: In the first year of the program, the failure rate for participating underrepresented minority students was less than half what it was for students with similar characteristics who did not enroll in the program.

Cleveland State University is partnering with College Now to facilitate degree completion among former students who left college without finishing their degree. The program supports students not only with financial aid, but also with assistance completing the re-admissions process and Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. The institution then provides enhanced academic advising once they’re enrolled.

Progress to date: After helping 230 former students return to their studies in its first year, the project is now scaling up its efforts by implementing targeted outreach strategies using historical data; providing more comprehensive student support services; tracking employment outcomes for participating students; and developing new models for broadened outreach to students with some college but no degree, including to students who did not attend Cleveland State University.

The University of Memphis is scaling up its partnership with West Tennessee Healthcare to help adult learners make faster progress toward earning their degree. The initiative uses credit-by-exam, adaptive learning, and experimental learning to eliminate the need for adult learners to fulfill course requirements for material they have already mastered. The effort will expand community partnerships, increase non-traditional course offerings, and introduce experiential learning opportunities to increase student success and reduce time to degree completion.

Progress to date: The university has enrolled 55 students in the program – saving students over $60,000 in tuition in a single semester through credit by examination. The effort also generated $250,000 in additional tuition revenue during the 2017 fall semester.

The University of South Alabama is partnering with two public school systems, three community college systems, and the state’s commission on higher education to boost college enrollment and attainment. The effort will include outreach to high schools students to help increase enrollment and FAFSA completion. The initiative will also work to reduce excess credit hours to speed graduates’ path to a degree and lower the cost of completion a college degree.

Progress to date: The program has advanced academic success: 51 percent of participating students with degree plans earned a 3.0 GPA or above, whereas 60 percent students lacking a degree plan earning a 2.0 GPA or below. In the program’s second year, more than 550 students are expected to enroll.

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