UIC selected to help transform public higher education

East Campus with students

UIC will develop models to increase student success with a grant from the Gates Foundation. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services

Through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UIC will develop and test new university models to increase undergraduate success rates and find greater cost efficiencies in supporting student success.

UIC was awarded a $225,000 Transformational Planning Grant from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, in collaboration with the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities.

The association will identify the most promising findings and practices created by UIC and six other institutions, then use them to help more than 200 public universities across the country meet the needs of their evolving student populations.

“Student success is the mantra that evolved as a logical extension of UIC’s access to excellence mission,” said UIC Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares. “The grant is recognition of the campus-wide efforts to address the issue of success for our deserving students.”

UIC has been engaged in evidence-based research to predict student success for several years, said Bette Bottoms, UIC vice provost for undergraduate affairs and dean of the Honors College, who is principal investigator of the grant.

“This grant could not be better timed for UIC,” said Bottoms, professor of psychology. “It will provide needed resources to develop the most effective and efficient plan for implementing campus-wide change to increase student retention and graduation.”

The grant will be used to implement the UIC Student Success Plan, 125 recommendations developed by faculty, staff and students from all colleges and departments.

“This effort is a true partnership between academic affairs and student affairs, which follows the Student Success planning initiative,” said Susan Farruggia, UIC visiting assistant research professor of psychology, director of the Chicago Collaborative for Undergraduate Success, and an investigator on the grant.

The grant will support the UIC Experience program and the development of a new Transition Coaching initiative, where UIC and community nonprofit organizations partner to support and mentor students transitioning from high school to college.

“The UIC Experience connects students with a wealth of supportive services and learning opportunities on our campus, within the city of Chicago, and globally and is designed to enhance student success,” said Barbara Henley, vice chancellor for student affairs.

The effectiveness and financial efficiency of student success initiatives will also be assessed.

“Public research universities are being asked to educate more students and effectively prepare them for the workforce and society at the same time they continue to face reduced state and local funding,” said Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

“The University of Illinois at Chicago is well positioned to identify effective ways forward that can help transform the delivery of public higher education as we know it.”

UIC and the six other participating universities — Florida International University, Fresno State, Georgia State University, Portland State University, Temple University and the University of Akron — are members of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities.

Urban research universities were selected for the project because they already serve a significant percentage of non-traditional, disadvantaged students.

The seven universities were chosen for their “demonstrated evidence of being early adopters,” having already begun to “convene stakeholders and implement system-level change,” the two associations said.

University representatives will travel to Washington, D.C., for a launch meeting at the end of July and begin the planning phase Aug. 1.