Nov 30, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

This month, the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) launched a major initiative designed to improve college access, close achievement gaps, and increase the number of undergraduate degrees awarded.

In a recent article in Forbes, Michael T. Nietzel, a former university president, details this ambitious plan called Powered By Publics: Scaling Student Success.

The project is a national collaboration among 130 public schools committed to doing better.

Why now? Graduation rates are stagnating and the six-year graduation rate for full-time, first-time undergraduates starting in 2010 was 60 percent, only one percent higher than five years ago. The rate is lower for part-time students, and there continue to be large completion gaps among black and Hispanic students, Pell grant recipients, and first-generation college students.

With financial support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the project will span five years, which will give institutions time to plan, innovate, share, and evaluate their results.

The goals are the award of hundreds of thousands more bachelor's degrees by 2025; to eliminate achievement gaps among low-income, minority, and first-generation students; and to discover best practices to improve success.

How will it work? Each institution will create a campus team to develop, implement, and evaluate student interventions. They will then use and share their data to monitor student performance. They will use this data to make decisions about future strategy.

Institutions will also place a stronger emphasis on career advising, especially in the early years of students' college life.

Nietzel suggests these colleges will reconsider what college success looks like and define it by more than just receiving a degree. He hopes it will enhance student learning, too.

Learn more about earning a bachelor's degree.

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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