NIU helps launch national effort to increase college access, attainment

130 public research universities and systems pledge to work collaboratively

Northern Illinois University is participating in a massive new effort in which 130 public universities and systems will work together to increase college access, close the achievement gap, and award hundreds of thousands more degrees by 2025.

The participating institutions will work within “clusters” of four to 12 institutions as they concurrently implement innovative and effective practices to advance student success on their campuses. Collectively, the institutions enroll 3 million students, including 1 million students who receive Pell Grants.

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) is organizing the collaborative effort, known as Powered by Publics: Scaling Student Success. The launch was announced at its 131st Annual Meeting now underway in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Powered by Publics represents the largest ever collaborative effort to improve college access, advance equity and increase college degrees awarded. In addition to committing to those goals, participating institutions have pledged to share aggregate data demonstrating their progress to help spur lasting change across the higher education sector.

“NIU is committed to access, equity and inclusion for all students, and we fully understand the power of collaboration and teamwork,” said NIU President Lisa Freeman. “For all these reasons, we’re thrilled to be participating in this unprecedented effort to advance student success nationally.”

“Over the past few years, we’ve witnessed a real and growing enthusiasm among public university leaders to advance college completion nationally,” APLU President Peter McPherson added. “We have to seize the moment and mobilize institutions to improve not just college access, but also equity in student outcomes and the number of students who earn degrees.”

By design, the participating institutions reflect a wide array of institutional characteristics such as enrollment, student demographics, regional workforce needs and selectivity. The broad diversity of the institutions is intended to help create a playbook of adaptable student-success reforms that can be adopted and scaled up across a variety of institution types, including those with limited resources.

The clusters have identified anticipated focus areas for their work. One cluster, for example, expects to work collaboratively to integrate data collection systems across each of their campuses to better monitor student progress and make data-informed decisions. NIU’s cluster will focus on tackling student financial literacy.

The effort will be overseen by APLU’s Center for Public University Transformation, which the association created this year to help drive transformational change across the public higher education sector. A core value of the center and its participating institutions will be rooted in a commitment to sharing data and innovative, successful practices to help drive progress across the entire sector of public higher education. The center will regularly disseminate lessons learned from the participating institutions to the broader public higher education community.

A national advisory council of respected higher education thought leaders will provide a strategic vision and guidance for the center, which will work to build upon and complement existing initiatives around institutional change and student success.

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