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Ohio State University’s success in improving graduation rates helps advance efforts of University Innovation Alliance

Alliance announces new funding to support its work to improve college completion rates

By: Amy Murray

Published on March 03, 2016

The Ohio State University’s recent success in increasing graduation rates, along with similar accomplishments by other University Innovation Alliance (UIA) partners, is helping to fuel an increase in degrees earned across alliance campuses. The UIA’s commitment to helping students succeed today drew an additional $3.85 million in new funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation and USA Funds to support its work to improve college completion rates.

Founded in 2014, the UIA is a collaboration of 11 top-tier research institutions committed to four objectives: producing more graduates, graduating more students across the socioeconomic spectrum, sharing data and innovating together. Thanks in part to the increased focus on these issues at UIA campuses, member institutions are already experiencing improvements in student outcomes.

“This additional support highlights the philanthropic community’s enthusiasm for effective collaboration among colleges and universities to share and scale student success innovation,” said UIA Vice Chair and Georgia State University President Mark Becker.

Although estimates suggest the nation will face a shortage of 5 million college graduates by 2020, college enrollment numbers are declining simultaneously. In 2014, the group set a public goal to graduate an additional 68,000 students over the next decade. According to an updated forecast, UIA members are now on track to graduate nearly 100,000 additional students during that time.

Since its inception, UIA members have also increased the proportion of degrees awarded to low-income students by 3 percentage points, while decreasing the gap in graduation rates between low-income students and their more affluent peers. The Ohio State University, University of Central Florida, Arizona State University, Iowa State University, Oregon State University and Purdue University have each increased the number of low-income graduates by more than 19 percent.

“A college education is a bridge to the middle class and beyond,” said Ohio State President Michael V. Drake. “Ohio State is proud to be part of a national partnership of universities working to bring the American Dream within reach of even more students.”

“This growth reflects the commitment of our campus leaders to graduate more students across the socioeconomic spectrum, setting a powerful example for others,” said Bridget Burns, UIA executive director. “When the power of predictive analytics and other best practices are implemented broadly across Alliance campuses, we expect the gains to be even greater. And if all other four-year public colleges and universities in the U.S. increased their graduation rates at the UIA’s pace over the next decade, we would add 1.3 million college graduates to the work force.”

The group is also advancing new research to the broader higher education community. This past fall, Georgia State led the UIA to win an $8.9 million U.S. Department of Education First in the World grant to start a 10,000-student random control trial to evaluate the impact of data-driven strategies that support first-generation college students.

“Collaboration through the Alliance represents a force multiplier in our efforts to increase completion rates,” said UIA Chair and Arizona State University President Michael Crow. “Big data enable us to understand what works and apply the experience of our peers so that we don’t have to experiment alone.”

The success of the Alliance is rooted in its collaborative approach to accelerate student success and innovation among campuses that might typically compete in other areas. Last year, Alliance members focused on replicating predictive analytics initiatives that use big data to identify and support at-risk students.

The UIA has already fostered successful innovations among campuses. Programs replicated through the work of the Alliance include:

  • the University of California, Riverside’s redesign of its summer bridge program, based on lessons learned from the University of Texas at Austin’s bridge program
  • the University of Central Florida’s replication of Georgia State’s Panther Retention Grant, which provides funds to students who are close to graduating, but might be otherwise deterred by outstanding fees
  • Georgia State scaling Ohio State’s Collegiate Recovery Program, designed to support students seeking recovery from addiction
  • Michigan State University’s redesign of communication strategies to improve student success borrowed from Georgia State

With the latest investment, the UIA has been awarded $18.45 million in total funds, including support from the the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, the Lumina Foundation, the Markle Foundation, USA Funds and the U.S. Department of Education.

The 11 members of the Alliance include:

Arizona State University
Georgia State University
Iowa State University
Michigan State University
Oregon State University
Purdue University
The Ohio State University
University of California, Riverside
University of Central Florida
University of Kansas
University of Texas at Austin


CONTACT: UIA-Sarah Herring, 202-479-7149,
                  Ohio State-Amy Murray, 614-292-8385,


Amy Murray
614-292-8385 | Email


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