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APLU & USU Team Up with 12 Public Universities to Drive Student Success through Community-University Partnerships

Washington, DC — Recognizing the valuable but often overlooked role that community organizations play in partnering with universities to improve student success, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) today announced grants to 12 public universities to scale-up emerging partnerships the institutions have undertaken with community stakeholders. The awards, known as Collaborative Opportunity Grants, support innovative approaches that link student success with an institution’s community engagement.

“The public urban universities receiving these grants have undertaken efforts that represent a sea change in the way we think about student success,” said Shari Garmise, Vice President of APLU’s Office of Urban Initiatives and Executive Director of USU. “For decades, institutions have applied a nearly singular focus on addressing academic hurdles students face once they’re enrolled. These institutions are saying that isn’t enough. We have to work with community partners to ensure students have the required resources to apply, the necessary instruction to be prepared for the rigor of college coursework, and the tools they need to thrive in the workforce and drive positive change in their communities.”

The universities’ partners involved in the grants span a wide variety of organizations and institutions – including non-profit organizations, local governments, health agencies, and school districts. The grants must involve one or more of five priority investment areas: engaging faculty; rethinking financial aid; leveraging community assets; engaging employers and workforce organizations; and integrating and strengthening K-16 systems.

The 12 institutions that will each receive $50,000 to expand their work are: California State University, Fresno; California State University, Northridge; California State University, Los Angeles; Cleveland State University; Fort Valley State University; Georgia State University; the University of California, Riverside; San Jose State University; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; the University of Memphis; University of South Alabama; and University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Another application period will open early next year for additional APLU and USU institutions to apply for funding. Institutions currently receiving grants are eligible to re-apply for grants next year to qualify for a total of $100,000 in funding. All grants are supported with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In July, representatives from each university will convene in Washington, D.C. to strategize and collaborate on their initiatives. USU and APLU will disseminate key findings from the institutions’ work after the Collaborative Opportunity Grant program has concluded to help promote best practices that other public universities can adapt.

In addition to having to collaborate with an external partner and align with investment priorities, the grantees had to show that their program is an emerging approach to student success and demonstrate that their institution has capacity to sustain and scale the effort. Finally, grantees had to outline a quantitative and qualitative assessment plan to track the program’s efficacy.

Below are overviews of the grantee institutions’ Collaborative Opportunity Grants:

  • California State University, Fresno is creating a K-16 team to strengthen the pathway between the math taught in area high schools and the math taught at the university. By creating problem-solving labs in the university’s entry-level math, the institution can provide small-group support tailored to recent high school graduates now enrolled in entry-level math at Fresno.
  • California State University, Northridge is collaborating with the Canoga Park community through Bridge to the Future (B2F), an initiative aiming to improve area high school students’ enrollment, access to, and retention within the university. The initiative provides four-year, tuition-free education to a subset of Canoga Park students who, in exchange, will give back to their community through service learning opportunities provided through the program.
  • California State University, Los Angeles is partnering with East Los Angeles College to provide mentoring and other support services to students transferring into California State University, Los Angeles. The program uses a non-traditional, student-centric approach to identify practices the campus should put in place to foster greater success for transfer students.
  • Cleveland State University is joining with College Now, a community organization to identify students who have left the university before completing their degree and help them re-enroll and finish their degree. The initiative provides assistance to these students by helping them resolve financial challenges so they can reenroll and also uses bolstered academic advising to keep them on track toward a degree.
  • Fort Valley State University is working with a host of external partners as the institution overhauls and expands its iHelp Center for Service and Volunteerism. Fort Valley State is making community service and volunteerism compulsory for all freshman to help improve student retention and success and address needs within the community.
  • Georgia State University is partnering with the Southern Education Foundation to examine the climate of social justice and its impact on students transitioning into the institution as well as for the student body as a whole.
  • University of California, Riverside is joining with the Community Foundation and the Riverside Unified School District to scale up community service, service-learning, community academic internships, and community-based research. The partnership also enables the university to facilitate student service learning, monitor community needs, and help develop capacity of partners to effect positive change.
  • San Jose State University is collaborating with two local high schools to expand their traditional summer school math courses and reduce remediation rates of incoming students. The initiative will include traditional math curriculum as well as college mentorship, an on-site visit to the university, family/parent workshops, and training for summer school math instructors by San Jose State University faculty.
  • University of Maryland, Baltimore County is working with Baltimore City Schools to create a kindergarten-to-college pipeline with the aim of enrolling and educating more students from the city by creating college access programs at area schools. The programs provide college admissions support, service-learning opportunities, as well as mentoring and advocacy.
  • The University of Memphis is partnering with West Tennessee Healthcare to help adult learners make faster progress toward earning their degree. The initiative uses credit-by-exam, adaptive learning, and experimental learning to eliminate the need for adult learners to fulfill coursework that they have already mastered.
  • University of South Alabama is joining with three area community colleges to streamline transfer processes and improve graduation rates at all collaborating institutions by, for example, redesigning college algebra and mapping processes that ease students’ transfer experience.
  • University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee is collaborating with the Milwaukee Public Schools to create a first-year seminar that simultaneously enrolls university freshman and seniors from the area high schools. The class will be taught by two professors and four high school teachers who will facilitate small-group discussions. The program will help area high school teachers teach cross-disciplinary literacy.

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