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University of Wisconsin Madison
Projects & Initiatives

Project Degree Completion

APLU and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) developed Project Degree Completion in which nearly 500 public colleges and universities have pledged to collectively work to increase not just the number of Americans who go to college, but the number who finish and earn a degree. The participating institutions committed to awarding 3.8 million more degrees by 2025 as the public college and university contribution to the national goal of having 60 percent of working age adults in the U.S. possess a post-secondary degree by that time.  The total number of college degrees granted by these four-year institutions would rise an estimated 14.6 million to 18.4 million between 2012 and 2025.

To facilitate this progress, APLU has developed a wide array of projects and initiatives designed to help further strengthen universities' work to increase access, contain costs, improve retainment, better track progress, and ultimately grow completion rates.  The association is also working to identify institutions' best practices and share them across the entire membership.  The following are keys efforts APLU is undertaking as part of Project Degree Completion:


2015 PDC Award Winner
Degree Completion
The Project Degree Completion Award recognize universities that have made significant progress in successfully retaining and graduating students while promoting those schools as models for other institutions.
Learning Technology
To help college and university leaders implement new systems for redesigning advising and supporting students across their campuses, APLU developed an online course: A SMART Approach to Student Success: Strategic Management of Advising Reform and Technology.
STEM Education
Advancing Mathematics Pathways for Student Success (AMPSS) is a coalition to coordinate a national drive to address undergraduate mathematics as a significant academic barrier for students pursuing degrees and credentials.
Temple University Network Center
Degree Completion
The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) system aims to streamline regulations and allow universities and colleges to more easily offer online courses to students across the country.
Urban Initiatives
In an effort to ensure cash‐strapped students with a proven record of academic success do not drop out due to financial need, some pathbreaking public universities are offering completion grants of a few hundred dollars to help students make tuition payments as they near graduation. APLU and USU are now building on this work by undertaking a rigorous empirical review of completion grants’ efficacy.
Urban Initiatives
Diversity in the biomedical sciences improves research outcomes, advances new cures and treatments, and aids recruitment of diverse patient populations for clinical trials. Yet there are few evidence‐based strategies for improving diversity within STEM and biomedical science doctoral programs. The Coalition of Urban Serving Universities and APLU are working with a set of partners to change that.
Urban Initiatives
Diversifying the workforce starts with college admissions. That’s why APLU, USU, and other organizations led a landmark study of holistic review in admissions to assess the state of holistic admissions practices across health profession schools and examine the impact of those practices on diversity, student success, and community engagement. USU's research outlines various admissions practices that can be adopted to improve diversity in health disciplines.
Clemson University
Access & Diversity
The Minority Male in STEM Initiative (MMSI) is designed to increase the recruitment and matriculation of underrepresented minority (URM) males in the STEM disciplines at public universities.
Learning Technology
The PLC serves as a coordinating body to foster cooperation and collaboration that will advance the use of information technology to improve learning, retention, and graduation. PLC membership positions universities to better capture the economies of scale inherent in information technology.
Accountability & Transparency
The Post-Collegiate Outcomes (PCO) collaborative project recently released a framework and toolkit to facilitate the discussion, compilation, and reporting of post collegiate outcomes.
Courtesy of the University of Central Florida
College Costs, Tuition & Financial Aid
APLU’s Public University Values (#PublicUValues) campaign seeks to help better explain key facts about the value of public universities and to clarify some common misconceptions.
Courtesy of North Carolina State University
Economic Development & Engagement
Education for employment upon graduation is important, but a four-year degree should also put graduates in a better position to adapt as employment requirements change throughout their careers.
Urban Initiatives
APLU and USU are working with public universities to research, develop, and test new, scalable university business models that boost student learning and degree completion. These transformations are aimed at establishing a comprehensive playbook for overhauling how students progress through college. USU shares the practices and findings identified through this work with APLU members to help better serve their students.
STEM Education
The Science and Mathematics Teaching Imperative is the most ambitious national initiative that assists public universities in their effort to increase the number and improve the quality and diversity of science and mathematics teachers prepared.
Accountability & Transparency
The Student Achievement Measure (SAM) provides a comprehensive picture of student progress on their path to earning a college degree or certificate. As compared to the limitations of typical graduation rate measures, SAM reports more outcomes for more students.
Accountability & Transparency
Simple, straightforward presentation of comparable information directly from public universities at no charge to students and families. Data elements selected based on input from students and families seeking trustworthy data.