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Student Success

New University Innovation Alliance Initiative Offers Completion Grants to Support College Completion

The University Innovation Alliance (UIA), a national consortium of 11 large public research universities working to improve graduation rates, today announced a grant program for students facing financial challenges at the end of their studies. With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates, the initiative will provide "last-mile" funds for students at UIA institutions who are eligible for graduation but at risk of being dropped from classes or not allowed to graduate because of outstanding tuition balances.  

"Some well-intentioned policies or practices can become a barrier to student completion. By first tapping predictive analytics, our institutions have been able to more easily surface and address those barriers," said Bridget Burns, executive director of the UIA, in a statement. "Providing needed aid to students who are close to graduation is yet another example of how collaboration among our institutions is bringing new solutions to light."

The completion grants program is the fourth national student success project undertaken by UIA's member institutions since the organization launched in 2014. Past projects have worked to implement predictive analytics, analytics-informed student advising and more. For all UIA projects, the goal is to "test and scale innovations proven to improve student success"; results are evaluated externally and shared with the higher education community.

The current project is modeled after Georgia State University's Panther Retention Grants program, launched in 2011 "to support the nearly 1,000 students who withdrew each semester due to outstanding tuition balances of less than $1,500," according to the UIA. "The initiative identifies academically qualified students who are at risk of non-enrollment due to nonpayment and provides an average award of $900 to cover the remaining cost of tuition." The UIA reports that the program has helped more than 8,000 students persist in their college education.

"Completion grants have been a critical part of our efforts to help students persist and succeed," said Tim Renick, vice provost of Georgia State University, in a statement. "Last year, more than 1,200 students who graduated from Georgia State were recipients of Panther Grants at some point in their academic careers. We are excited to work with the UIA, and to share best practices and lessons learned with our institutional partners as they implement this transformative initiative."

Georgia State will work to support other UIA member institutions in implementing completion grants on their campuses.

The University Innovation Alliance is comprised of Arizona State University, Georgia State University, Iowa State University, Michigan State University, Oregon State University, Purdue University, The Ohio State University, University of California, Riverside, University of Central Florida, University of Kansas and The University of Texas at Austin. For more information, visit the UIA site.

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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