June 16, 2019 | 69° F

Rutgers joins effort to close achievement gap, award more degrees by 2025

Photo by Declan Intindola |

Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi spoke to the graduating class of 2018 at commencement in May. Yesterday, the University announced its partnership with 130 other public schools in an initiative to increase college access and the number of degrees and graduates it produces.

Rutgers is joining 130 public colleges in an effort to increase college access, close the achievement gap and award significantly more degrees by 2025.

Organized by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), the initiative, Powered by Publics: Scaling Student Success, was announced at APLU’s 131st annual meeting in New Orleans. Rutgers announced yesterday it will join in the project.

Member colleges will work in clusters of 4 to 12 institutions, as they implement innovative and effective practices to advance student success on their campuses, according to a press release. Collectively, the institutions enroll 3 million students, including 1 million who receive Pell Grants. 

“Rutgers—New Brunswick is a national leader in helping students to succeed on campus, in their careers and throughout their lives, so we are proud to join this collaborative effort to advance college completion nationally,” said Ben Sifuentes-Jáuregui, vice chancellor for Undergraduate Academic Affairs (UAA).

Through the program, Rutgers looks to improve coordination among the programs that help students to stay in school and graduate, create a centralized resource to support excellence in teaching, expand financial aid and create a centralized system to identify, support and track first-generation and other underrepresented students.

The New Brunswick campus enrolls 34,802 undergraduate students, many of them from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds, according to a Rutgers press release. 

Approximately 30 percent of undergraduates were first-generation students in 2017, 28 percent of first-time full-time undergraduates were awarded Pell Grants in 2016 and 28 percent of the incoming class in 2017 was transfer students, according to the press release.

The clusters have each identified an anticipated focus areas.

One cluster, for example, will try to tackle financial aid and student financial literacy, while another will look to integrate career advising earlier into students' careers.

Rutgers is in a cluster with other schools from the Big Ten Academic Alliance and plans to consider addressing financial support, creating a supportive culture for under-resourced students and connecting students with academic and career coaching. Furthermore, Rutgers plans to advise and review policies that impact student retention and persistence, among other ideas, according to the press release.

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, according to the press release.

APLU President Peter McPherson said there has been a recent increase in efforts to improve college completion, according to the organization’s website.

“Over the past few years, we’ve witnessed a real and growing enthusiasm among public university leaders to advance college completion nationally,” he said. “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.”

Ryan Stiesi

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