ECMC Foundation awards grants to institutions inspired by the work of the University Innovation Alliance

While college campuses rarely reach outside their walls to collaborate with other campuses, 10 postsecondary institutions have pledged to work together to share best practices, help pilot innovations and openly discuss risks and failures.

The new collaborations are the result of a challenge grant supported by ECMC Foundation and in partnership with the University Innovation Alliance (UIA), a group of 11 public research institutions committed to increasing the number and socioeconomic diversity of college graduates.

Designed to spawn new campus networks that replicate the UIA’s culture of collaboration, the challenge grant includes three awards of up to $75,000 to participants in the recent UIA National Summit who became inspired to develop and advance new collaborative work as a result of attendance.

“We are hopeful that the University Innovation Alliance’s work is truly the beginning of an era—one where schools reach out to their peers across states and the country to ask for help, advice and insight,” said Peter Taylor, president of ECMC Foundation. “We are excited to see how the UIA has already inspired great projects like these, and look forward to supporting the work.”

To be eligible for the grant, teams of at least three campuses were encouraged to develop proposals to address persistence and graduation gaps among low-income, first-generation college students and students of color. These proposals could include new initiatives, or the scaling of existing successful programs across new campuses. Collectively, the grantees across the three campus networks span across eight states and enroll more than 150,000 undergraduates.

The awarded projects include:

  • Starting Strong: Summer Bridge Program Tailored to Low-Income Black Males led by the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in collaboration with Morehouse College and the University of Central Florida. These campuses will glean insights from each other to build and expand summer bridge programs designed to support black male students’ transition into college. The campuses aim to increase persistence and graduation rates among black males.
  • Improving Data and Communication to Increase Student Retention led by California State University Channel Islands in collaboration with California State University Northridge, California State University Fresno and Portland State University. To reduce their common challenge—high first-year dropout rates that hover around 20%—the California State Universities and their Oregon-based partner institution will build datasets to identify risk factors for dropping out, as well as establish communications protocols to reach at-risk students.
  • The Urban College Consortium led by Paul Quinn College in collaboration with Kuyper College and Wilberforce University. Paul Quinn College’s Work Model requires residential students to work paid internships in addition to jobs on-campus to provide real-world experience and reduce student loan debt. Earnings go towards students’ tuition and fees, therefore decreasing student loan debt. Paul Quinn will work with Kuyper College and Wilberforce University to explore ways to pilot and replicate the model on their campuses.

The challenge grant was launched at UIA’s Inaugural National Summit in April. The Summit is part of UIA’s efforts to expand its reach and momentum in getting institutions to collaborate, scale and share innovations that improve college graduation rates for students from low-income, disadvantaged backgrounds. More than 300 leaders, administrators and faculty in higher education from 77 institutions attended the summit.

“If we want to really unlock the promise of higher education, colleges and universities can no longer go it alone. The UIA is working to scale innovation and inspire others to advance important change to benefit students,” said Bridget Burns, executive director of the UIA. “We are thrilled at the level of enthusiasm and meaningful work coming out of the summit and could not be more grateful to have generous partners like ECMC Foundation who are committed to helping us inspire and build a student success movement in higher education.”

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