Four UIA Members Recognized for Driving Innovation in Higher Ed

September 15, 2015
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Buzz is building about the transformational changes taking place on University Innovation Alliance campuses. Last week, four UIA members were recognized as the most innovative universities in the country by U.S. News & World Report in its 2016 America’s Best Colleges guide. For the first time ever, U.S. News asked university presidents, provosts, and admissions deans around the nation to select the institutions they credit with trying new approaches to improving success for both students and faculty. Alliance institutions recognized were: Arizona State University (#1), Georgia State University (#5), the University of Central Florida (13th), and Purdue University (#21).

The recognition by U.S. News comes just a week after Washington Monthly, in its annual college rankings, named three UIA leaders among “America’s Ten Most Innovative College Presidents.” Georgia State’s Mark Becker, Arizona State’s Michael Crow, and UCF’s John Hitt all made the list. In publishing the rankings, Washington Monthly noted, “These presidents have implemented specific, innovative programs in areas like affordability, diversity, research, and service. They’re the ones who, whether well known or not, are shaping the future of America’s schools.”

More information about the innovations taking place on the four nationally recognized UIA campuses:

Arizona State University (#1)

ASU President Michael Crow has driven the university to launch several programs focused on widening access to higher education. Last year ASU won praise for its partnership with Starbucks to make online degrees more widely available to the company’s employees. This fall brings the debut of ASU’s Global Freshman Academy, in which students can take online classes and decide after completion whether they want to pay for the credits, which are offered at a rate of $200 per hour. ASU is also exploring better ways to teach. Several hundred freshmen are participating in a new project-based learning pilot this year called ProMod. The program combines instruction in general education and students’ focused areas of study while they tackle real life problems. Faculty are researching whether the students are more likely to complete their degrees than students who take classes delivered in the traditional way.

Georgia State University (#5)

Georgia State is a national leader in using predictive analytics and technology to improve academic advising and raise success rates. By combining rich data resources with an intensive focus on advising students as they make decisions about their academic pathways, Georgia State is helping more students graduate – and graduate on time. In addition to providing real-time academic guidance, the university also flags and helps to solve potential financial struggles that may keep students from staying on track. As a result, Georgia State’s six-year graduation rate has risen from 32 percent to 53 percent and the gap in graduation rates between students from different socioeconomic backgrounds has been eliminated.

University of Central Florida (#13)

UCF has been nationally admired for its innovative DirectConnect pathways program, which simplifies the transfer process for community college students, ensuring they’re on track to complete a four-year degree. Through DirectConnect, more than 24,000 students have earned UCF bachelor’s degrees after beginning their college education at one of four partner state colleges – Valencia College, Seminole State College, Lake-Sumter State College, and Eastern Florida State College. UCF’s transfer model guarantees admission to students who successfully complete their two-year program at the partner colleges, and provides students with academic and financial advising to ensure a smooth transfer.

Purdue University (#21)

Purdue University has distinguished itself as an innovation leader under President Mitch Daniels. One major new initiative is the development of the Gallup-Purdue Index, which aims to provide a comprehensive view of graduates’ satisfaction in many facets of their lives – and identify links between the student experience and long-term success. The New York Times recently examined the Index’s findings. Purdue is also taking an innovative approach to improving college finance. Purdue’s Income Share Agreement (ISA) program will make it possible for students to finance their education with help from private investors by agreeing to share a portion of their future earnings with investors for a period of time. The arrangement would ease debt levels and ensure that repayment obligations are manageable after graduation, helping to put college within reach of more students.