Public research universities collaborating, not competing, to help low-income students graduate

The University Innovation Alliance (UIA), a coalition of 11 well-known public research universities, has decided that collaboration, not competition, offers the best chance to ensure that more low-income students earn a college degree. Founded in 2014 to increase the number and diversity of college graduates, the UIA believes that setting aside rivalries helps schools avoid wasting time and resources trying to solve complex problems alone and instead creates an opportunity to help push each other forward by sharing data and strategies.

Writing in the The Hechinger Report, Bridget Burns, UIA’s founding executive director, and Peter J. Taylor, a UIA funder, detail the benefits and interventions that have emerged from the universities’ collaboration. “The imperative to do things differently is convincing some of higher education’s greatest competitors that collaboration may be their most powerful competitive advantage,” they write.

Three years in, UIA schools producing significantly more low-income graduates

Burns and Taylor say the alliance, for instance, has revealed the power of proactive university advising and small completion grants in helping students overcome roadblocks to graduation. Sharing these sorts of ideas, no matter how small, has led to some pretty significant outcomes.

UIA says its 11 participating universities—Arizona State, Georgia State, Iowa State, the University of Kansas, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oregon State, Purdue, the University of California at Riverside, the University of Central Florida, and the University of Texas at Austin—have achieved a 29 percent increase in degrees awarded to low-income students and are on pace to graduate nearly 100,000 additional students overall by 2020.

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