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National Alliance Formed to Improve College Completion for Low-Income and First-Generation College Students; Raises $5.7 Million

Public Universities Pledge to Share Ideas, Successful Programs

WASHINGTON, D.C.—In an unparalleled effort to ensure more low-income students can earn a college degree, eleven major public research institutions announced today an alliance that will test and disseminate proven innovations in education so colleges and universities across the country can be more successful in retaining and graduating all students.

The founding members of the University Innovation Alliance (UIA) have raised and will match $5.7 million dollars to facilitate the sharing of ideas and to scale proven interventions, with the intention of developing a national “playbook” that will benefit low-income and first-generation college students.

“There is a lot of talk about disruption in higher education. We think that the real disruption will come through collaboration,” said Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University and Chairman of the UIA. “Colleges typically are forced to compete for students, research support and top spots on college rankings. While there are many institutions that have come up with creative solutions to some of our sectors most urgent problems, those ideas rarely travel far from where they are hatched.”

The real disruption will come through collaboration.

“This alliance will create a space where university leaders can come together and learn from one another, and all of us will benefit as we share, adapt and scale up ideas that have been proven to help students from all backgrounds,” said UIA member and University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.

Follow the conversation on twitter #UIAinnovation

Today, high-income students are seven times more likely to attain a college degree than are low-income students. The American economy will face a shortage of at least 16 million college graduates by 2025. The founding members of the UIA are focused on addressing the achievement gap and pending shortage at a time when public funding for higher education has been decreasing.

The eleven alliance members serve large numbers of low-income and first-generation college goers, and each institution has pioneered programs to help students succeed in various aspects of their college program. The goals of the UIA are to collaborate to share innovation and adapt successful programs.

“To maximize both our economic success and our success as a free, self-governing society, we must do a far better job of educating qualified students regardless of their backgrounds,” said UIA member and Purdue University President Mitch Daniels.

“There is no question now that educational attainment is key to social mobility in an increasingly knowledge-based economy,” UIA member and Michigan State University president Lou Anna K. Simon added. “We have the will, the tools and the critical mass to finally begin to breach a persistent barrier to delivering the promise of opportunity to all our students, no matter what their family or geographic circumstances.”

The 11 Innovation Alliance members are:

The UIA member universities will share practices that have yielded significant gains for low-income students. For example, universities such as the University of Texas at Austin, Arizona State University and Georgia State University have used predictive analytics to aid the academic trajectory of students of all backgrounds. Georgia State successfully used predictive analytics and proactive advising interventions to increase its semester-to-semester retention rates by 5 percent and reduce time-to-degree for graduating students by almost half a semester. This means 1,200 more students are staying in school every year, and the Georgia State Class of 2014 saved $10 million in tuition and fees compared to graduates a year earlier. If these same innovations were scaled across the eleven UIA institutions over the next five years, it is estimated an additional 61,000 students would graduate from UIA institutions and save almost $1.5 billion in educational costs to students and taxpayers.

That is the kind of transformation the UIA is after,” said George State University President Mark Becker and UIA Vice Chairman.

Some photos from the Sept. 16 event.

In generating $5.7 million in funds to start this endeavor, the alliance has garnered the attention and funding support of six major funders, and partnering universities are providing matching funds. Supporting foundations and charitable organizations are:

  • Ford Foundation
  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Kresge Foundation
  • Lumina Foundation
  • Markle Foundation
  • USA Funds

For more information go to

Sharing Intel on Completion | Inside Higher Ed | Sept. 17, 2014
University Innovation Alliance Receives $5.7 Million in Grants | Philanthropy News Digest | Sept. 17, 2014

Facts about postsecondary attainment in America
Facts about postsecondary attainment in America
June 12, 2012
Lumina Foundation
Kate Snedeker