Public Research Universities to Collaborate to Boost Number of College Grads

The Association for Public and Land-grant Universities has announced a major initiative to support universities as they collaborate in clusters to create solutions aimed at helping students graduate and succeed after graduation.

With a goal to help more students graduate from college and succeed in the workforce, the Association for Public and Land-grant Universities has announced a major “transformation cluster initiative.” This effort comes out of APLU’s newly minted Center for Public University Transformation.

“We’ve noticed over the past decade or so that the conversation among our members has really been changing from access to college, to student success and completion, and also success in the workforce,” said CPUT Director Julia Michaels.

CPUT, which was launched last month to bring together everything APLU is doing for student success in one place, will serve as the backbone to support the “transformation clusters.” The process of determining which 100 public research universities will join the initiative is underway, and APLU expects the clusters—made up of eight to 10 institutions—will be organized and ready to go in a year.

Each cluster will then determine how to work together to refine, implement, and scale innovative practices that address shared challenges among the participating institutions. According to a press release, a cluster “may choose to work on adaptive courseware, proactive advising, or completion-focused financial aid approaches that are unique or appropriate for the students attending institutions in the cluster.”

“While public universities have achieved important progress on student success both alone and in small groups, we still face a national imperative to vastly increase the number of college-educated workers and citizens,” said APLU President Peter McPherson in a press release. “We’re excited to work with schools on a national scale to drive transformational change across the entire sector. We’re engaging public universities that are focused on advancing reforms that institutions of all sizes, demographics, and locations can use to help more students earn a degree and be ready to thrive in their careers after graduation.”

Although the idea of collaboration isn’t new, it works, according to Michaels. And APLU has experienced prior success—albeit on a smaller scale—in facilitating groups of universities as they seek to solve problems together.

“When universities have the opportunity to share what they’re doing and try and implement these innovations on campus and really have that feedback from their peers, it’s more effective and they’re really able to move forward quickly, so providing that space is really a helpful thing,” Michaels said.

APLU’s aspirational goal is to see 400,000 additional degrees by 2025, but Michaels notes that the association will revise this number once it knows exactly which universities are participating, since each has different capacities.

With this initiative, APLU is not only looking to increase the number of college graduates, but it is also looking to eliminate the achievement gap among minority and low-income students.

“That will involve not only ensuring that more students are retained and finish their degrees, but also expanding into populations that may not have been served by higher education in the past—including nontraditional students, adult students, low-income students—[and] ensuring that every student succeeds when they come through our members’ doors,” Michaels said.

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Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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