Andy Hyland
Office of Public Affairs

University Innovation Alliance receives $3.85M in new grant funding to improve student success

Fri, 03/04/2016

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas and the University Innovation Alliance (UIA) have announced an additional $3.85 million in new funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation and USA Funds to support its work to improve college completion rates.

“We are proud to be part of this group of 11 universities working together to address the growing achievement gap in American higher education,” said KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “Our goal is to ensure that all students — regardless of their socioeconomic background — have the chance to succeed.”

Founded in 2014, the UIA is a collaboration of 11 top-tier research institutions, including KU, committed to four objectives: producing more graduates, graduating more students across the socioeconomic spectrum, sharing data and innovating together. Thanks in part to the increased focus on these issues at UIA campuses, member institutions are already experiencing improvements in student outcomes.

Gray-Little will join Mark Becker, president of Georgia State University; Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University; and Paul Fain, news editor for Inside Higher Ed, on a panel March 8 at the SXSWedu 2016 conference in Austin, Texas. The discussion featuring members of the UIA will focus on “How Universities are Crowdsourcing Innovation.”

The 11 members of the Alliance include Arizona State University, The Ohio State University, Georgia State University, University of California-Riverside, Iowa State University, University of Central Florida, Michigan State University, University of Kansas, Oregon State University, University of Texas at Austin and Purdue University.

Although estimates suggest the nation will face a shortage of 5 million college graduates by 2020, college enrollment numbers are declining. In 2014, the UIA set a public goal to graduate an additional 68,000 students over the next decade. According to an updated forecast, UIA members are now on track to graduate nearly 100,000 additional students during that time.

Since its inception, UIA members have also increased the proportion of degrees awarded to low-income students by three percentage points while decreasing the gap in graduation rates between low-income students and their more affluent peers.

“This growth reflects the commitment of our campus leaders to graduate more students across the socioeconomic spectrum, setting a powerful example for others,” said Bridget Burns, UIA executive director. “When the power of predictive analytics and other best practices are implemented broadly across Alliance campuses, we expect the gains to be even greater. If all other four-year public colleges and universities in the U.S. increased their graduation rates at the UIA’s pace over the next decade, we would add 1.3 million college graduates to the workforce.”

The group is also advancing new research in the broader higher education community. This past fall, Georgia State led the UIA to win an $8.9 million U.S. Department of Education First in the World grant to start a 10,000-student random control trial to evaluate the effect of data-driven strategies that support first-generation college students.

“Collaboration through the Alliance represents a force multiplier in our efforts to increase completion rates,” said UIA Chair and Arizona State University President Michael Crow. “Big data enable us to understand what works and apply the experience of our peers so that we don’t have to experiment alone.”

The success of the Alliance is rooted in its collaborative approach to accelerate student success and innovation among campuses that might typically compete in other areas. Last year, Alliance members focused on replicating predictive analytics initiatives that use big data to identify and support at-risk students.

The UIA has already fostered successful innovations among campuses. Programs replicated through the work of the Alliance include the following:

  • KU is working to redesign experiences for students, particularly low-income students, first-generation students and students of color, who enter the university undecided on a major. The intervention is based on analyses conducted in collaboration with the Education Advisory Board and lessons learned from an analysis conducted for students at the University of Texas at Austin.
  • University of Central Florida replicated Georgia State’s Panther Retention Grant, which provides funds to students who are close to graduating but might be otherwise deterred by outstanding fees; and
  • Michigan State University is revamping its communication strategies to improve student success borrowed from Georgia State.

With the latest investment, the UIA has been awarded $18.45 million in total funds, including support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, the Lumina Foundation, the Markle Foundation, USA Funds and the U.S. Department of Education.

“Sharing ideas and leveraging innovation helps all of our students,” said DeAngela Burns-Wallace, vice provost for undergraduate studies at KU, who serves as the university's liaison to the UIA. “This is hard work, but important work. The UIA gives us partners beyond our campus to help us deliver on our promise to help make all our students successful.”

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