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Ohio University joins unprecedented national effort to improve college access

OHIO is one of 130 public research universities and systems pledging to work collaboratively to increase college access, eliminate the achievement gap and award more degrees by 2025

Ohio University announced last week that it 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 more degrees by 2025.

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), which is organizing the collaborative effort, recently announced the “Powered by Publics: Scaling Student Success” initiative during its 131st annual conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. The effort represents the largest ever collaborative to improve college access, advance equity and increase college degrees awarded.

Participating universities are slated to work within 16 clusters that will concurrently implement innovative and effective practices to advance student success on their campuses. In addition, participating institutions have pledged to share aggregate data demonstrating their progress to help spur lasting change across the higher education sector.

“Expanding access to higher education and enhancing opportunities for academic growth are vital components to Ohio University’s longstanding commitment to student success,” said Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis. “OHIO is proud to work collectively with APLU and the numerous outstanding universities participating in this initiative to increase college access, equity and completion.”

Ohio University is currently working to become a national leader in applying the latest behavioral science research to increase student support, success and degree completion.

OHIO is among nine universities participating in the Nudge to the Finish Line project, a five-year Institute for Education Science grant awarded to the University of Virginia. Nudge to the Finish Line focuses on students who are more than halfway through their college credits. Studies have shown that about 40 percent of students who drop out do so after that point, particularly as they become removed from the support systems that are sometimes more prevalent for new students.

The University is also leading “Normalizing College Challenges," an initiative to “nudge” at-risk students through their college experience and increase their opportunity to achieve a higher-education degree. These nudges, which can be done in person or digitally, are designed to help college students achieve academic goals, reframe obstacles, seek help from campus resources and navigate the path to graduation.

Additionally, the OHIO First Scholars Program is delivering a network of support and opportunity for Ohio University's first-generation college students, including focused academic advising, tutoring, an optional specialized campus living experience and a structured mentoring program that pairs first-year first generation students with an OHIO faculty or staff member who is either a first-generation student themselves or has a particular interest in supporting first- generation students.

Ohio University’s Senior Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Student Success Elizabeth Sayrs relayed that OHIO’s first-generation students have traditionally yielded a lower rate of retention when compared to continuing generation students. Approximately one-third of OHIO’s students currently identify as first-generation.

"At OHIO and beyond, we must continue to close the achievement gaps between our first-generation populations and their peers to ensure that our dual commitment to academic excellence and access translates into lifelong opportunities,” said Dr. Sayrs. “By joining APLU’s national collaborative, OHIO hopes to not only expand its existing student support initiatives, but to share data, learn of others’ successes and collaborate to develop key indicators of student progress and deep learning.”

Ohio University will be working with five other institutions as part of the initiative’s Data Integration Cluster, including: George Mason University, Tennessee State University, Texas Tech University, University of New Hampshire and the University of Rhode Island. The cluster’s focus will be to work collaboratively to integrate data collection systems, better monitor student progress and make data-informed decisions.

Powered by Publics 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.

“Over the past few years, we’ve witnessed a real and growing enthusiasm among public university leaders to advance college completion nationally,” said APLU President Peter McPherson. “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. That’s what Powered by Publics is all about and why we’re thrilled to work with our member institutions toward such an important national goal.”