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Student Success

8 Universities Leveraging Community Partnerships to Boost Student Outcomes

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The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) recently announced grants to eight public universities that are forging community partnerships to improve students' access to and overall success in college. Supported by funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Collaborative Opportunity Grants provide each institution with $50,000 to "collaborate, accelerate and improve implementation efforts," as well as additional support and resources from APLU and USU.

Four of the grantees — University of Cincinnati, George Mason University, the University of Texas at San Antonio and Wayne State University — are receiving funding for the first, time, while the other four — California State University, Fresno, Cleveland State University, the University of Memphis and the University of South Alabama — were awarded Collaborative Opportunity Grants in 2017 and are receiving additional funding to expand their projects.

To qualify for the grants, the projects were required to: involve collaboration with an external partner; align with investment priorities; show an emerging approach to student success; demonstrate the capacity to sustain and scale the effort; and have a quantitative and qualitative assessment plan for tracking efficacy.

The projects being funded:

  • The University of Cincinnati is working with Cincinnati Public Schools to integrate support systems and help students transition from high school to college.
  • George Mason University is working with Northern Virginia Community College to create degree pathways in technology, health and education, eliminate transfer barriers for community college students and build students' job skills.
  • The University of Texas at San Antonio, Alamo Community College District and other community organizations are working to improve and standardize mathematics instruction across the area's K-16 systems.
  • Wayne State University and the Detroit Regional Chamber are using an artificial intelligence chat platform to inform adult students about higher education opportunities in the Detroit area, as part of a broader effort to support adult learners and boost college attainment in the region.
  • California State University, Fresno is continuing work that brings together high school math teachers and university math faculty to align and improve math teaching and course materials.
  • Cleveland State University and College Now are providing financial aid and other assistance to help former students who left college re-enroll and finish their degree.  
  • The University of Memphis is expanding its partnership with West Tennessee Healthcare, using credit-by-exam, adaptive learning and experimental learning to help reduce time to degree completion for adult learners.
  • The University of South Alabama, together with two public school systems, three community college systems and the state's commission on higher education, is working on student outreach initiatives to boost college enrollment and attainment. 

"The institutions being awarded grants are working to tackle the obstacles facing students with innovative and dynamic new approaches," commented Shari Garmise, vice president of APLU's Office of Urban Initiatives, in a statement. "As these institutions have shown, tackling challenges is often most effectively done through partnerships with other community stakeholders that bring added resources and insights. And we're finding that substantial student success gains can be achieved through that collaboration."

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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