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APLU and USU Select Seven Urban Research Universities for Innovative Pilot Grant that Seeks to Advance Transformational Change within Public Higher Ed

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-Sponsored Grant Will Award Each Institution $225k to Develop and Test Ways to Increase Access, Improve Success Rates, & Find Greater Cost Efficiencies

July 9, 2014 — As public research universities seek to keep pace with an evolving student body, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) today announced that seven of its urban research university members have been selected as participants in a one-year, innovative project that seeks to transform the way higher education is delivered. Florida International University, Fresno State, Georgia State University, Portland State University, Temple University, the University of Akron, and the University of Illinois at Chicago will each receive $225,000 as part of the Transformational Planning Grant (TPG) project to research, develop, and test new, scalable university business models that can increase access, improve success rates, and find greater cost efficiencies.

APLU, in coordination with the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU), is managing the grant and the cohort of seven urban institutions on behalf of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which funded theinitiative. APLU intends to use its national network to work to scale the most promising findings and practices of the seven grantees to help its more than 200 public university members across the country better meet the needs of their evolving student populations.

“Public research universities are being asked to educate more students and effectively prepare them for the workforce and society at the same time they continue to face reduced state and local funding,” APLU President Peter McPherson said. “The seven public urban research institutions leading this effort are well-positioned to identify effective ways forward that can help transform the delivery of public higher education as we know it. We are eager to assist and foster their development of what will certainly be promising approaches to improving quality and success in the current environment for public research universities. And we are equally excited about taking the best initiatives and helping to scale them up for public institutions across the country.”

All seven of the participating universities are members of APLU and USU. Urban research universities were chosen to comprise the entire cohort since they already serve a significant percentage of non-traditional, disadvantaged students.

“The TPG project is an exciting realization of the unique role of urban serving universities,” USU/APLU Office of Urban Initiatives Vice President Shari Garmise said. “Harnessing the collective vision to increase access, deliver equity, improve urban life, and strengthen the workforce presents a great opportunity to explore transformational change. We’re very excited about the potential advancements these seven institutions will find over the course of the grant that could help reshape the way public higher education is delivered.”

APLU and USU conducted a rigorous application and review process for urban universities interested in participating in the TPG project. The seven institutions chosen demonstrated evidence of being early adopters, measured by the degree to which they have already begun to convene stakeholders and implement system-level change. The seven sites will be supported by APLU and USU networks, which will capture and promote promising practices and broker support for the sites if they need additional resources or expertise.

Representatives from each of the seven institutions will travel to Washington, DC for a launch meeting at the end of July and institutions will begin the planning phase on August 1.


Florida International University
FIU’s University Transformation through Teaching (UT?;) will support a university-wide planning process that will result in a comprehensive multi-year plan to fundamentally reform pedagogy at the university in line with best practices in college teaching, particularly in gateway undergraduate courses that affect student success as measured by retention and on-time graduation.

Fresno State
California State University, Fresno (“Fresno State”) will be the lead institution in a collaboration of nine Hispanic-Serving Institutions in the San Joaquin Valley to transform the educational pipeline from kindergarten through college graduation. In a series of design charrettes, the partnering institutions will realize their shared goal of harnessing tablet technology to provide a rich, multimedia, interactive, and streamlined experience for students moving up the educational pipeline.

Georgia State University
Building on its successes with big data, predictive analytics, intrusive advising, financial-aid innovations, and adaptive learning, the critical question that Georgia State University will consider is: How does an institution move from the creation of large-scale but discrete student success programs to the establishment of integrated campus-wide norms? The Transformational Planning Grant will enable Georgia State to leverage the gains (and sizable investments) it has already made in the area of student success to develop pilots and scaling plans for several initiatives: (1) the expansion of adaptive learning and hybrid delivery models in bottleneck courses, (2) the integration of financial analytics and interventions into existing student tracking systems, and (3) the extension of predictive analytics from their current use in determining good fit between individual students and academic majors to one which help match students to potential careers and occupations.

Portland State University
The TPG award will help support reTHINK PSU, a presidential initiative at Portland State University, which is a campus-wide effort to deliver an education that serves more students with better outcomes, while containing costs through curricular innovation, community engagement and effective use of technology. reTHINK PSUwill engage faculty and staff in planning activities to create strategic insights and robust implementation plans for the three focal areas, with an emphasis on reducing costs: Pathways to Success – a coordinated route for community college students to pursue a PSU degree; Degree Completion – to advance Oregon’s ambitious goal for educational attainment (40-40-20); and PSU Flexible Degrees – well-articulated pathways for students who attended college at one time, but did not receive college credentials.

Temple University
Temple University will focus on two interrelated projects. The first project entails developing non-cognitive approaches for ensuring that students are prepared for success at Temple University before they apply for admission by recruiting students who have strong potential, but have been overlooked based on standard measures of achievement. The second project involves analyzing how non-cognitive factors add value to intervention and retention strategies for all students at Temple University, whether they are defined as marginal or exceptional upon admission. Combined, both projects share a common need to devise new financial aid strategies to support students who score high on non-cognitive evaluations, but would not necessarily be competitive for traditional (i.e. standardized test scores) merit-based funding.

University of Akron
The University of Akron will explore bold action to transform higher education by unbundling content, delivery, assessment, and credentialing to improve educational productivity and allow learners to break free of the constraints put forth by physical campus locations and semester time models. UA will plan a cross-cutting Institute for Learning and Assessment (ILA) to provide: (1) a rich menu of prior learning assessments designed to fit the needs of a range of learners, (2) expert content sourcing and curation services, (3) transformative, personalized, and adaptive learning opportunities, and (4) new methods to assess, certify, and credential knowledge gained in classrooms, research labs, workplaces, and beyond.

University of Illinois at Chicago
Over 200 faculty, staff, administrators, and students at the University of Illinois at Chicago engaged in a comprehensive review of all university programs, services, and policies for undergraduates, to identify ways to increase student retention and graduation. The resulting “UIC Strategic Plan for Increasing Undergraduate Success” features 125 recommendations with rationale. The Transformation Planning Grant will enable UIC to develop an evidence-based implementation plan for prioritizing and evaluating the recommendations, and to develop two initiatives that connect students with our supportive resources: (1) “The UIC Experience,” which provides a structured pathway for students to access and engage in supportive campus and city resources; and (2) a Transition Coaching Initiative, in which UIC partners with community non-profit organizations to provide extra support and mentoring throughout students’ transition from high school to college.

For more information on the TPG project, visit www.aplu.org/TPG.

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