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Urban Public Research Universities Launch Collaborative Effort to Accelerate & Scale Implementation of New, Innovative Practices to Boost Student Success

March 31, 2016

Washington, D.C.— Seeking to eliminate roadblocks that too often prevent low-income and underrepresented college students from attending and then graduating college, a group of public urban universities today launched a new, collaborative effort to implement and accelerate innovative, transformative, and often disruptive changes needed to boost student success. Collaborating for Change – an initiative led by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) – is helping these and other universities enact and scale a series of transformations aimed at admitting, retaining, educating, and graduating high-need, traditionally at-risk students while reducing costs, reexamining campus business models, and fostering mutually beneficial campus-community engagement.

The commencement of this implementation phase follows two years of strategic planning in which these and other public universities sought to identify the best approaches to advance student success in urban centers given the sheer number of students who live there and the proven ability of urban institutions to successfully innovate with limited resources. Urban-serving institutions represent 68 percent of colleges and universities in the United States and serve 20 million students, making their campuses essential models for other colleges and universities contemplating change.  Notably, these institutions advance innovations that align with their community-based missions and their students’ entire ecosystem—recognizing that academic barriers to student success are intertwined with financial, geographic and other social barriers.

“Collaborating for Change isn’t just about outlining steps public urban universities can take to improve student success, it’s about helping them actually implement those changes so we can begin to see the progress and improvement that is needed,” APLU President Peter McPherson said. “If the U.S. is going to meet its goal of having 60 percent of working age adults possess a post-secondary degree then we’re going to need new and innovative approaches to expand access and ensure the success of more low-income and first generation students, many of whom live in urban areas. APLU and USU are well-positioned to help institutions participating in Collaborating for Change build on successful implementation efforts by helping to promote, foster further collaboration, and scale those policies at other institutions across the country.”

Collaborating for Change, which is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, includes the following public urban universities:

  • California State University, Fresno
  • Florida International University
  • Georgia State University
  • Portland State University
  • Temple University
  • University of Akron
  • University of Illinois at Chicago

Over the next four years, Florida International University, Georgia State University, and Portland State University will participate in the implementation phase while helping the APLU and USU member institutions learn from their efforts.  Collaborating for Change will also publish reports, hold webinars, and release other communications to foster institutional collaboration throughout the initiative and to foster learning communities that stretch across the country.

The mix of campus-specific solutions expected to be implemented include efforts as diverse as: unbundling institutional services and processes to reimagine the student experience and learning outcomes; crowdsourcing and design thinking focused on student success; employing the use of predictive analytics to reduce barriers and target appropriate interventions to support student progression and completion; formalizing partnerships within the community; developing a coordinated initiative to align institutional commitments and practices in order to foster greater college aspirations throughout the K-16 pipeline and region; and redefining access through the integration of a holistic understanding of and approach to student access and success.2000

“Over the coming years, higher education will face new and recurring challenges to student success.  Collaborating for Change is a framework that encourages campuses to move from isolation to collaboration; to embrace transparency, to learn from their failures as well as triumphs, and to build community partnerships with urban stakeholders so that they face urban problems together, rather than in academic silos,” said Shari Garmise, vice president for USU/APLU Office of Urban Initiatives, “The three core institutions paving the way for this next phase of Collaborating for Change  —Florida International University, Georgia State University, and Portland State University—aren’t disrupters because they have all the answers.  They are innovators because they understand the transformative power of collaboration on their campus, in their community and with each of their peers.”    

Collaborating for Change materials include:

For more information about the Collaborating for Change initiative, please visit its website.

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