Washington, DC – The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) today named Florida State University the winner of its 2021 Degree Completion Award during a ceremony at its annual meeting. The Degree Completion Award works to identify, recognize, and reward institutions that employ innovative and evidence-based approaches to improve degree completion while ensuring educational quality.
“We applaud Florida State University for their critically important work to advance students success, equity, and completion,” said APLU President Peter McPherson. “The university’s comprehensive approach to increasing support for students and addressing equity gaps stands as an important example of how institutions can take a campus-wide approach to advancing equity and degree completion.”
After analyzing student success data, Florida State University set out to address equity gaps: students who entered in 2009 had a 62 percent graduation rate overall, but that rate was 53 percent for Black students and 58 percent for Pell-eligible students, with transfer students even further behind.
FSU launched its Center for the Advancement of Teaching to support faculty as they redesigned courses around students’ needs and created more inclusive learning environments. The university also founded a Learning Assistant Program in which undergraduates who have successfully completed courses are invited back to work in them, helping students learn the material. Additionally, FSU expanded first-year student engagement programs, invested in experiential learning, adopted new approaches to advising, and leveraged its longstanding CARE program, which supports first-generation college students from transition to college through graduation. Thanks to these multidimensional efforts, FSU achieved a record-high 74 percent four-year graduation rate last year while nearly eliminating gaps by race, ethnicity, and income level.
The Degree Completion Award is one part of APLU’s robust work to advance college access, equity, and completion. The award complements the association’s broader student success work, including its Powered by Publics initiative, which convenes 125 APLU member institutions collaboratively working to tackle barriers to student success in the areas of affordability, teaching and learning, and holistic student supports. Collectively, the schools have pledged to aim to increase college access, cut the equity gap in half, and award hundreds of thousands more degrees by 2025.
A panel of reviewers examined the applications to determine the finalists. Florida Atlantic University and the University of Illinois Chicago were the other finalists for the 2021 Degree Completion Award.