TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama is participating in a massive new undertaking where 130 public universities across the nation will work collaboratively to close the achievement gap, increase college access by removing barriers and help graduate low-income minority and first-generation students by the year 2025.
By that date, the goal is to have awarded hundreds of thousands more college degrees to underserved students than would normally be obtained.
The “Powered by Publics: Scaling Student Success” initiative is organized by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and is the largest collaborative effort of its kind to have ever occurred.
“This is important nationally because certainly these are the issues that face every university campus,” said Dr. David Grady, UA vice president for Student Life. “As the flagship institution of the state of Alabama, student success and academic achievement is always at the forefront of what we do.
“We’re coming off of an increased first-to-second year student retention and increased 4-6 year graduation time this year, so we are improving, but there’s always more we could be doing. The focus is to look at the students who aren’t being successful and how we can help them.”
The 130 universities involved in the initiative are grouped into clusters with UA falling into the 11-school Southern Cluster. Each cluster is charged with sharing ideas and resources to create best practices on how to help the APLU achieve the initiative’s goals in a five-year plan.
Each cluster is assigned different tasks on which to focus. One cluster, for example, expects to work collaboratively to integrate data collection systems across each of their campuses to better monitor student progress and make data-informed decisions. Another expects to tackle financial aid and student financial literacy, while a separate cluster is planning to work to integrate career advising early into a student’s academic journey to both speed students’ path to a degree and better prepare them for the workforce.
The Southern Cluster’s goals are to create a variety of strategies to better structure and streamline academic pathways into and through universities. These guided pathways will hopefully help reduce time-to-degree, reduce excess credit accumulation and help students obtain marketable skills.
“It’s incredibly important to work collaboratively,” Grady said. “The power of an initiative like this is we get to share resources, ideas and best practices, and that’s how we can make an incredible change at UA and across the country. APLU wants to improve access and achievement across the nation, and, working together, this collaboration can make a much greater impact and graduate more students.”
The clusters have communicated through email, telephone and met this past weekend at the APLU’s 131st annual meeting in New Orleans.
APLU President Peter McPherson said over the past few years he’s witnessed a real and growing enthusiasm among public university leaders to advance college completion nationally. So, it’s now time to “seize the moment and mobilize.”
“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,” he said.
The effort is 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.
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.