Institutions participating in CFC undertake a variety of reforms touching virtually every aspect of the student experience to advance academic success and improve graduation rates. In an effort to improve student learning and life outcomes, these approaches aim to overhaul the way students progress through college. They include:
- Aligning and strengthening K-16 pathways;
- Adjusting instruction methods to help more students succeed in challenging “gateway courses”;
- Bolstering faculty engagement with students and new instruction technologies;
- Using student data to forecast then preempt barriers;
- Rethinking financial aid to support students from access to completion; and
- Partnering with employers and labor organizations to meet workforce needs.
Unmet financial need remains a significant barrier to degree completion for many low-income students, especially those in their final year of college – when savings are often exhausted and traditional financial aid proves insufficient in covering students’ expenses. Nearly 15 percent of students with three-quarters of their required credits fulfilled leave college without degrees, often due to financial constraints.
In an effort to ensure cash-strapped students with a proven record of academic success do not drop out due to financial need, institutions offer completion grants of a few hundred dollars to help students make tuition payments as they near graduation. With support from Lumina Foundation and Great Lakes Higher Education Guarantee Corporation, CFC is working to replicate this promising practice across a cohort of nine public universities. The goal is support these students and highlight the importance of new approaches to financial aid.
Collaborative Opportunity Grants
CFC’s Collaborative Opportunity Grant (COG) program is designed to support new or emerging innovations that transform institutional practices, programs, policies, and culture to improve student success. The project’s principal goals are to identify emerging innovative practices that improve student success while supporting collaboration between public universities and external organizations that lead to meaningful and sustained change. All projects in the COG program must be a collaboration between a public university and an external organization such as another university, community colleges, school districts or local governments.
Transformational Planning Grant
The Transformational Planning Grant (TPG) project was a two-year initiative under the aegis of CFC that supported a cohort of seven public urban research universities as they spent a year planning and designing new business models and innovative approaches to increase access, improve success rates, and discover greater cost efficiencies. The practices and findings that TPG discovered were shared with the more than 200 members of the APLU to help public universities better understand how to optimize the education they provide to their evolving student populations.