Lumina Foundation Awards Grant to Support Innovations to Improve Student Success

The University of Texas at Austin, Public Agenda and innovative college and university leaders nationwide and across Texas have been awarded a $745,000 grant from Lumina Foundation to develop and implement cost-effective ways of increasing educational attainment and improving student success.

The grant will be used to expand collaboration among higher education institutions in Texas and across the nation, with the goals of improving educational access and increasing postsecondary completion rates.

"Lumina Foundation has been an invaluable partner in our quest to lead American universities to greater effectiveness through collaboration and educational experimentation," said President Bill Powers. "This very generous grant will move us ahead in even more dramatic ways, and I thank the Foundation for its support."

In 2010 Powers and Vice Provost Harrison Keller organized the Texas Higher Education Leaders Consortium, working in partnership with Public Agenda, HCM Strategists and Lumina Foundation. Consortium participants also include leaders from Austin Community College, Alamo Colleges, El Paso Community College, San Jacinto College, Texas AandM University, Texas Tech University, The Texas State University System, The University of Texas at Brownsville, The University of Texas at Dallas, The University of Texas at El Paso and The University of Texas System.

"The leadership of The University of Texas at Austin has been critical to bringing institutional leaders together both within Texas and nationally to develop approaches that better serve students who haven't been well served in the past," said Jamie Merisotis, president and chief executive officer of Lumina Foundation. "Colleges and universities need to urgently focus on high-quality, lower-cost options for helping more students earn affordable degrees and credentials."

The consortium's work emphasizes innovative instructional models that incorporate new technologies to support teaching and learning. During the next two years, the consortium also plans to address improving educational pathways for students, including streamlining the transfer process between two-year and four-year institutions.

In 2011 the consortium received a strong endorsement from the Texas Legislature through a $3 million appropriation; these funds are being used to support Texas OnRamps, which is a statewide initiative to develop and deploy online college-level course materials for use across the state, including in high schools that offer dual-credit courses. The Lumina grant will support the consortium through 2014, and will enable Public Agenda to expand its research and engagement work with faculty and higher education leadership.

"The consortium provides a unique opportunity to demonstrate, and learn about, how two- and four-year institutions can work together to improve teaching and learning while also increasing productivity," said Public Agenda President Will Friedman. "This work aims to help keep high-quality higher education affordable to both students and the state."

The Lumina grant will also support Powers' and Keller's work with Public Agenda to foster collaboration among leading public research universities that are members of the American Association of Universities. This initiative has three major goals: to advance the mission of public flagship universities, to increase educational productivity and to establish cross-institutional collaborations to leverage resources in areas such as lower-division course redesign, college readiness, and sharing educational content and technologies. The Lumina Foundation grant support will enable this work to continue through 2014.

About Public Agenda:

Public Agenda, a public opinion research and public engagement organization, works to strengthen the nation's capacity to tackle tough public policy issues, including education reform, the environment and health care. Nonpartisan and nonprofit, Public Agenda was founded by social scientist and author Daniel Yankelovich and former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance in 1975.

About Lumina Foundation

Lumina Foundation is a private, independent foundation established in Indianapolis in August 2000. With more than $1 billion in invested assets, Lumina ranks among the nation's top 40 private foundations. Lumina is committed to enrolling and graduating more college students. The Foundation's mission is to increase the percentage of Americans who hold high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by 2025.