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New APLU Center to Tackle Public University Transformation

Student success will be the theme of a new center dedicated to "public university transformation." The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) has announced a new initiative to bring together a hundred public research universities organized in clusters to identify, refine and scale innovative practices to increase the number of four-year degree holders over the next seven years. The institutions that participate will share key data within the clusters and help to propagate the practices across higher ed.

"Public university leaders have spent years creating and testing solutions to help students succeed in college, complete their degrees, and be well-prepared for the workforce. These efforts have achieved significant success at individual institutions, but have not been fully brought to scale across the public higher education sector," the new national Center for Public University Transformation stated on its website.

The first job for the center will be to form those clusters — each having 10-12 universities — organized around geography or type of institution. The center anticipates that those will be in place and ready to start their work in about a year. Then the center expects to establish a formal degree target; the APLU has already stated that a primary goal is producing "hundreds of thousands of more graduates by 2025." Another goal: to eliminate the "achievement gap for low-income, minority and first-generation students, while maintaining or expanding access to higher education for these students."

It will be up to each cluster to figure out how to work together for its chosen mission, whether that be the use of adaptive courseware, changes in advising practices, financial aid approaches that entail a completion focus, or something else.

For its part, the APLU will provide support to the clusters and share data and evidence-based best practices across its member institutions and the rest of the education sector. While Julia Michaels serves as director for the center, APLU is also recruiting for an executive director to work on creation of the clusters.

"Public universities across the country are deeply committed to finding new ways to increase access, improve college completion, and advance equity," said Robert Caret, chancellor of the University System of Maryland and chair of the APLU Board of Directors, in a prepared statement. "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."

The APLU used a $1.2 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to re-organize and improve its internal capacity to support the center.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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