Urban‐serving institutions represent 68 percent of colleges and universities in the United States and serve 20 million students, making their campuses essential for implementing transformative change. Notably, these institutions advance innovations that align with their community‐based missions and their students’ entire environment – recognizing that barriers to academic success are intimately linked with financial, geographic, and other socioeconomic challenges. Public urban research universities serve an outsized share of historically underserved populations such as low‐income, minority, and first generation students. USU places particular emphasis on narrowing and ultimately eliminating achievement gaps by addressing challenges facing these students.
By working both within and across institutions, USU provides a forum for schools to collaborate on addressing hurdles facing their students by employing pioneering approaches. And crucially, collaboration across universities allows institutions to collectively examine challenges, exchange best practices, and share lessons learned. In essence, USU functions as a venture capital organization for student success and community transformation – funding, studying, and promulgating the most promising emerging practices. Instead of maximizing return on investment to the venture organization, however, USU aims to accelerate reforms that fundamentally change the way higher education institutions operate to ensure they best serve their student populations.