Auburn University helps launch unprecedented national effort to increase college access, equity and postsecondary attainment

Published: November 12, 2018
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Auburn University is helping launch 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) has organized the collaborative effort, known as Powered by Publics: Scaling Student Success. 

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.

Auburn is dedicated to the pursuit of greater student access, diversity and inclusion,” said Auburn President Steven Leath.  “We are elevating our student experience with a drive toward successful outcomes and preparing the next generation of student leaders to compete in the marketplace and make meaningful contributions.”

APLU President Peter McPherson said that during the past few years his organization has witnessed a growing enthusiasm among public university leaders to advance college completion.

“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,” he said. “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.”

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. Another cluster expects to tackle financial aid and student financial literacy, while a separate cluster is planning to work to integrate career advising early into a student’s academic journey to both speed students’ path to a degree and better prepare them for the workforce.

Auburn will be in the “Southern Central Cluster,” which also includes Alcorn State University, Alabama A&M University, Mississippi State University, University of Tennessee, University of Kentucky, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, University of Southern Mississippi, West Virginia State University and West Virginia University.

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 for Public University Transformation 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.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 29,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn's commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact. Auburn's mission to educate, discover and collaborate drives its expanding impact on the world.