The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) announced earlier this month that it has joined with 130 other public universities and systems for a new initiative, "Powered by Publics: Scaling Student Success." Organized by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), the collaborative effort is intended to increase college access, close the achievement gap, and enroll 3 million students – including 1 million students who receive Pell Grants – by 2025.
"Students who complete college reap considerable benefits as many doors open to them, giving them access to a wide variety of different careers and professions," says Dr. Christine Curtis, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs "So it is essential that we give all who have the spark of curiosity and the desire to learn access to a college education, because every person’s talent and intellect is needed by our state and nation in today’s competitive world."
By working collaboratively with other public institutions in the APLU, she continues, UAH has been given a greater opportunity to ensure equitable access to students. "Together," she says, "we can pool our efforts to bolster all students who apply themselves to their studies and help each of them gain the knowledge and skills that prepare them not only for their careers, but also for fulfilling lives."
By design, the participating institutions reflect a wide array of institutional characteristics such as enrollment, student demographics, regional workforce needs, and selectivity. This is intended to help create a playbook of adaptable student success reforms that can be adopted and scaled up across a variety of institutional types, including those with limited resources. Working as teams, or "clusters," of four to 12, they will concurrently implement innovative and effective practices to advance student success on their campuses. They will also share aggregate data demonstrating their progress to help spur lasting change across the higher education sector.
Each cluster has already identified anticipated focus areas for their work. These include working collaboratively to integrate data collection systems to better monitor student progress and make data-informed decisions; improving financial aid and student financial literacy; and integrating career advising early into a student’s academic journey to both speed their path to a degree and better prepare them for the workforce. UAH, which is in Cluster 12: Tech Cluster, is joined by Michigan Technological University, Missouri University of Science and Technology, and the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Together the four universities will focus on enhancing academic advising to meet the needs of today’s students, to promote retention, and to help students progress expeditiously toward graduation.
The effort is being overseen by APLU’s Center for Public University Transformation, which the association created this year to help drive transformational change across the public higher education sector. A core value of the Center and its participating institutions will be rooted in a commitment to sharing data and innovative, successful practices to help drive progress across the entire sector of public higher education. The Center will regularly disseminate lessons learned from the participating institutions to the broader public higher education community.
A national advisory council of respected higher education thought leaders will provide a strategic vision and guidance for the Center, which will work to build upon and complement existing initiatives around institutional change and student success.
"Over the past few years, we’ve witnessed a real and growing enthusiasm among public university leaders to advance college completion nationally," says APLU President Peter McPherson. "We have to seize the moment and mobilize institutions to improve not just college access, but also equity in student outcomes and the number of students who earn degrees. That’s what ‘Powered by Publics’ is all about and why we’re thrilled to work with our member institutions toward such an important national goal."