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Public Research Universities to Launch Unprecedented Nationwide Collaborative Effort to Boost Number of College Graduates

Washington, DC – Recognizing the need for transformative change in higher education, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) today announced a major new effort in which 100 public research universities – organized in clusters of eight to 10 institutions – will work to produce hundreds of thousands of more graduates by 2025. The clusters of institutions will develop, refine, and scale innovative practices that will also aim to close the achievement gap. Participating institutions will all commit to sharing key data within the clusters and promulgate proven practices across the entire public higher education sector.

APLU is launching a new national Center for Public University Transformation (CPUT) that will serve as a backbone to support the “transformation clusters.” The process of contacting and working with the specific institutions that will join the initiative is underway. APLU expects the clusters will be organized and ready to begin work in a year. A formal degree target will be established once all clusters are in place, but APLU expects the effort to produce several hundred thousand more degrees.

To develop the transformation clusters, APLU will build upon its existing networks of institutions that are addressing shared challenges or expanding capacity in similar areas. Clusters may form around geographic areas or types of institutions.

Each cluster will determine how to work together to refine, implement, and scale innovative practices that address shared challenges among the participating institutions. Clusters may, for example, choose to work on adaptive courseware, proactive advising, or completion-focused financial aid approaches that are unique or appropriate for the students attending institutions in the cluster.

“While public universities have achieved important progress on student success both alone and in small groups, we still face a national imperative to vastly increase the number of college-educated workers and citizens,” said APLU President Peter McPherson. “We’re excited to work with schools on a national scale to drive transformational change across the entire sector. We’re engaging public universities that are focused on advancing reforms that institutions of all sizes, demographics, and locations can use to help more students earn a degree and be ready to thrive in their careers after graduation.”

APLU will support the clusters and share new knowledge across the entire public higher education sector to ensure proven and effective practices are widely adopted.

Public research universities share a commitment to providing students from all backgrounds an affordable, high-quality education that aligns with workforce needs. APLU will work with the institutions in the transformation clusters to facilitate a collaborative community of learning so the entire public higher education community can identify and adopt evidence-based practices that drive progress toward equity and college completion.

“Public universities across the country are deeply committed to finding new ways to increase access, improve college completion, and advance equity,” said Robert L. Caret, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland and Chair of the APLU Board of Directors. “Collaboration is absolutely central to achieving those goals and APLU is filling a critical need in helping institutions work together to undertake the transformation necessary to do so.”

Specifically, the transformation clusters will help the participating institutions work to:

  • Produce several hundred thousand more four-year degrees by 2025.
  • Eliminate the achievement gap for low-income, minority, and first-generation students, while maintaining or expanding access to higher education for these students.
  • Share key data and evidence-based practices to help drive institutional change across all public university campuses nationwide.

A core value of the Center and its participating institutions will be rooted in a commitment to sharing data and innovative, successful practices to help drive progress across the entire sector of public higher education. The Center will regularly disseminate lessons learned from the 100 participating institutions to the broader public higher education community.

A national advisory council of respected higher education thought leaders will provide a strategic vision and guidance for the Center, which will work to build upon and complement existing initiatives around institutional change and student success.

To improve the association’s ability to scale student success initiatives, APLU received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support internal reorganization and capacity-building efforts.

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