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APLU & USU Partner with Eight Public Urban Universities to Increase Student Success for Adult Learners of Color

Washington, D.C.— Seeking to identify and address barriers facing adult students of color, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) today announced grants to eight public urban research universities supporting university-community partnerships aimed at leveraging the assets of Black, Latino, and Indigenous adult learners.

“Black, Latino/x, and Indigenous adult learners have an extraordinary set of assets and we’re thrilled to work with our institutions to address barriers they face to accessing and completing a bachelor’s degree,” said Christel Perkins, Assistant Vice President at APLU and Deputy Executive Director of USU. “These grants will help institutions develop and expand partnerships with community organizations to create an ecosystem harnessing the wealth of experiences and assets these adult learners embody.”

Each institution will partner with a local organization, such as an employer, to build an ecosystem for helping Black, Latino, and Indigenous learners thrive. Additionally, institutions will critically examine their advising, enrollment and reenrollment practices, and student support services to identify and eliminate barriers facing students. Lumina Foundation is funding the effort.

The eight institutions receiving grants are: California State University, Fresno; California State University, Los Angeles; the University of Colorado Denver; Florida International University, the University of Illinois Chicago; University of Memphis, University of New Orleans, and Portland State University.

Background on partnerships receiving funding:

CSU Fresno
Fresno State will build a network of partners — including Fresno City College, Bitwise Industries, United Way, Jewel of Justice, and ARIS/Advancing Research Impact in Society – to advance outreach and advising practices boosting adult student success. The university is working with internal and external partners to pilot innovative and data-informed approaches to meeting adult learners needs. This includes outreach and advising services, technology, professional development opportunities, high-impact learning experiences, and creating certifications/badges to motivate students along their degree pathway.

California State University, Los Angeles
Cal State LA’s Charter College of Education and Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion will partner with Promesa Boyle Heights, a community organization to identify and eliminate barriers hampering the success of adult learners of color in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. The partnership will focus on an outreach effort conducting surveys and focus groups with adult learners in the Boyle Heights and broader East Los Angeles community. Cal State LA will use this data to inform its student success initiatives, including equity-based advising and holistic support.

University of Colorado Denver
The University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) is engaging community partners, including the Willow Group and Denver Chapter of the International Coach Federation, in the development and implementation of a non-traditional advising model and practices that will augment the advising support of CU Denver Black, Latinx, and Indigenous adult learners, the majority of whom are transfer students. The project is part of a comprehensive student success effort reflected in the university’s 2030 Strategic Plan.

Florida International University
Florida International University (FIU) will scale its efforts to increase adult learner success through credit for prior learning pathways and bolstering outreach to adult learners to increase their college access and enrollment. This will include increasing university department adoption of prior learning assessment, creating a coordinated marketing campaign for adult learners, and use process modeling to refine existing policies, admissions and onboarding processes, and financial models. Through these efforts, FIU will offer accessible pathways for all learners, developing a cradle-to-career approach that is required for sustained economic prosperity in our region.

University of Illinois Chicago
The University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) will develop a partnership with Harold Washington College (HWC) to create a pathway for Black, Latinx and Indigenous adult learners to participate in the university’s Professional and Leadership Development Program (PLDP). The two-year PLDP joins together programming into a suite of programs tailored for adult learners, including: professional programs, such as resume writing, career exploration, changing careers, and balancing parenting and career; leadership programs, such as navigating change, addressing imposter syndrome, and leadership and self-reflection; and internship opportunities. All HWC adult learners will participate in at least two leadership and two professional development programs each semester.

The University of New Orleans (UNO) will partner with REImaginelution to address systemic barriers for Black and Latinx adult learners in an urban setting, focusing on preparing faculty for success in teaching. Through the UNO Adult Learner Success Summer Institute, UNO faculty will receive in-depth, expert training on equitable, inclusive teaching practices for adult learners to grow faculty understanding of the unique academic assets and challenges of Black and Latinx adult learners. Through innovative curricular and teaching approaches, UNO will create a program supporting Black and Latinx adult learner retention and graduation.

The University of Memphis
The University of Memphis is focusing on enhancing college access and success for adult students of color through its Prep Academy and its African American Male Academy. The Prep Academy, an innovative earned-admission program designed for employees of corporate partnerships, engages students in career development, academic readiness, and personal development, enabling students to earn college admission, regardless of background or test score. The African American Male Academy provides resources, mentors, completion grants, wrap-around services and support programs (aka a Culture of Inclusive Excellence) to facilitate graduation from middle to high school through college. Funding will support a peer mentoring program design to increase the number of adult students of color earning admission through Prep Academy and degrees awarded to African American males and other adult student of color.

Portland State University
Portland State University will develop a partnership with Self Enhancement, Inc. to strengthen its pipeline of Black, Indigenous, and Latinx adult learners. The model includes the development of a system for financial access, relevant and accelerated curricular, and holistic student support. The university seeks to collaboratively develop an innovative program that can serve as a model for expanded and scaled programming at Portland State University.

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