Forensic and Investigative Science major Abby Brown studies outside of the NRCCE on the Evansdale Campus Nov. 1, 2018.

WVU joins national initiative to increase college access, graduates

West Virginia University is joining with scores of universities in a national initiative to increase college access, close the achievement gap and significantly produce more degrees by 2025.

“Powered by Publics” is an initiative of the Association of Land-Grant and Public Universities and involves 130 schools, gathered into 16 different clusters around regions, size and/or mission.

“We are excited to be partnering with APLU and other peer institutions to develop sustainable strategies to solve some of the most pressing issues in higher education,” said Vice Provost John Campbell, who is coordinating the initiative at WVU. “These institutions are committed to removing barriers that prevent students from attending higher education and earning their degree.”

President Gordon Gee, who frequently advocates for the need to increase post-secondary education to improve the state’s economy, said, “Neither this state nor this nation can expect to have a healthy economy or standard of living until and unless our people have the skills to compete in the technological society in which we live.

“In West Virginia alone, we have more than 20,000 unfilled jobs because of gaps in our workforce’s educational level,” he said. “West Virginia University has been working to address these issues here at home, and combining with other similarly situated institutions will strengthen us and strengthen them.”

WVU joins the state’s other land-grant university, West Virginia State University in Institute, as the only participants in the Mountain State. They are in a cluster with Alabama A&M University, Auburn University, Mississippi State University, The University of Tennessee, University of Kentucky, University of Louisiana-Lafayette and University of Southern Mississippi.

This cluster will work on finding more effective ways to address students’ financial needs, particularly those from lower-income, minority and first-generation backgrounds, Campbell said. The cluster is interested in developing financial literacy tools to help students take advantage of available financial aid as well as manage their finances. The institutions want to develop sustainable strategies that allow more effective use of limited institutional resources. These strategies will help the universities in this cluster address student financial barriers, leading to improved retention and completion.

“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.”

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 participating institutions enroll 29 percent of all undergraduate students at four-year institutions and confer 33 percent of all degrees awarded at four-year institutions. In all, 3 million students are enrolled at Powered by Publics participating institutions.

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