Open Menu Close Menu

Student Success

University Innovation Alliance Project to Address High DFW Rates in Gateway Courses

The University Innovation Alliance, a national consortium of public research universities dedicated to increasing the number of diversity of college graduates across the country, has announced a new project aimed at diagnosing and addressing high DFW (drop, withdraw, or fail) rates in gateway courses, particularly for students of color and those from low-income backgrounds. The work is supported by a $3.5 million grant led by post-secondary education-focused nonprofit Ascendium.

In a two-and-a-half-year pilot, UIA member institutions will test tactics developed at UIA founding member Georgia State University, which launched an Accelerator Academy in 2020 to "address significant pandemic-driven increases in DFW rates," according to a news announcement. Participating universities will work with UIA to identify first-year gateway courses with the highest DFW rates. Students who are struggling to succeed in those courses will be invited to retake the courses "at a subsidized cost and with a small incentive grant," the announcement explained. In some cases, institutions will also work to re-enroll students who have dropped out. To help ensure that students succeed in their second attempt at a class, institutions will provide supplemental instruction, group tutoring, and access to academic coaches.

"Long before COVID-19 disrupted students' education, we discovered students of color and those from low-income backgrounds are more likely to earn poor grades in or withdraw from courses required for progression toward their degrees. As our institutions seek to help students recover academically from the pandemic, we know we have to address this endemic barrier," said Bridget Burns, CEO of the University Innovation Alliance, in a statement. "With support from Ascendium and the Frederick A. DeLuca Foundation, we will test and build scalable solutions across the nation's largest research universities to ensure equitable course progression and degree outcomes for all students." 

UIA expects at least 1,000 students to participate in the pilot, and said that "more than 170,000 students of color and 130,000 students from low-income backgrounds across member institutions stand to benefit from the impact of this project." Results from the pilot will be shared in an open source "playbook" designed to "help institutions identify and address DFW bottlenecks and scale proven accelerator models to help students stay on track after unsuccessful course experiences." Playbooks for past UIA projects on completion grants, college-to-career transitions, and proactive academic advising can be found on 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].

comments powered by Disqus