UIC selected to help transform public higher education

The University of Illinois at Chicago is one of seven public, urban, research universities selected to participate in an innovative one-year project with a goal to transform higher education.

Crowd of students

Under the Transformational Planning Grant project, UIC will receive $225,000 to develop and test new university models to increase undergraduate success rates and find greater cost efficiencies in supporting student success.

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, in collaboration with the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities, received the project grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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

UIC has been engaged in evidence-based research aimed at predicting student success for several years, says Bette L. Bottoms, UIC vice provost for undergraduate affairs, dean of the Honors College, and professor of psychology, who is principle investigator of the grant.

“This grant could not be better timed for UIC,” Bottoms said. “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 allow the university to devise the implementation of the UIC Student Success Plan, which includes 125 recommendations developed by eight task forces of 200 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 also support the UIC Experience program and the development of a new Transition Coaching initiative, in which UIC and community nonprofit organizations partner to provide support and mentoring to students as they transition from high school to college.

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 APLU President Peter McPherson. “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.

“We are eager to assist and foster University of Illinois at Chicago’s development of what will certainly be a promising approach to improving quality and success in the current environment for public research universities.  And we are equally excited about the potential to scale up their new ideas for public institutions across the country.”

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 all members of APLU and USU.  Only urban research universities were selected for the project, because they already serve a significant percentage of non-traditional, disadvantaged students.

The project is “an exciting realization of the unique role of urban serving universities,” said Shari Garmise, vice president of the USU/APLU Office of Urban Initiatives. “Harnessing the collective vision to increase access, deliver equity, improve urban life, and strengthen the workforce presents a great opportunity to explore transformational change.”

APLU and USU conducted a rigorous review of the urban universities that applied for the project.  According to the associations, the seven universities chosen “demonstrated evidence of being early adopters,” having already begun to “convene stakeholders and implement system-level change.”

The seven sites will be supported by APLU and USU networks, which will capture and promote promising practices and broker support for the sites if they need additional resources or expertise.

Representatives from the institutions will travel to Washington, D.C., for a launch meeting at the end of July. Institutions will begin the planning phase on August 1.

APLU is a research, policy, and advocacy organization representing 234 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems, and affiliated organizations.  Founded in 1887, APLU is North America’s oldest higher education association with member institutions in all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, four U.S. territories, Canada, and Mexico.

Annually, APLU member campuses enroll 4.7 million undergraduates and 1.3 million graduate students, award 1.1 million degrees, employ 1.3 million faculty and staff, and conduct $41 billion in university-based research.

USU is a president-led network of public, urban-based research universities dedicated to improving urban health and reducing health disparities, strengthening urban economies, and developing a capable, diverse workforce for the 21st century.

USU is led by a 15-member board composed of university presidents and chancellors that set policy for the organization. The board’s agenda focuses on three crucial areas or strands (Workforce, Health, and Strengthening Communities), each overseen by member presidents or chancellors.  USU partners with APLU to oversee a joint Office of Urban Initiatives.

UIC ranks among the nation’s leading research universities and is Chicago’s largest university with 27,500 students, 12,000 faculty and staff, 15 colleges and the state’s major public medical center. A hallmark of the campus is the Great Cities Commitment, through which UIC faculty, students and staff engage with community, corporate, foundation and government partners to improve the quality of life in metropolitan areas around the world.


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