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Seeking mobility through higher graduation rates

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EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — There are many bumps in the road to social and economic mobility in the U.S., and 11 large research universities are taking steps to level one of them.

Michigan State University and 10 other U.S. schools have launched a program that aims to boost the graduation rates of students from low-income families or from groups that are historically underrepresented among college graduates.

Last week, the University Innovation Alliance announced it's raised $5.7 million for the project from six major backers. Besides Michigan State, the participating schools are Arizona State, Georgia State, Iowa State, Ohio State, Oregon State and Purdue universities; and the universities of California-Riverside, Central Florida, Kansas, and Texas-Austin.

The announcement follows this year's 50th anniversary of Upward Bound, a program started as part of Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty with a goal of helping students from low-income families get a college education.

"The alliance will develop and test new initiatives, share data and create a playbook of best practices across its members and beyond, aspiring to invigorate efforts in all colleges and universities to produce a better-educated workforce," said Michigan State spokesman Mark Fellows.

Fellows said in a statement that the project's mission is "increasing the number of students who stay in college and graduate within six years, regardless of where they are within the socioeconomic spectrum."

The alliance is an outgrowth of universities' long experience with the challenges of getting students who are the first in their families to attend college to complete their studies.

"There is no question now that educational attainment is key to social mobility in an increasingly knowledge-based economy," said Michigan State President Lou Anna K. Simon. "We have the will, the tools and the critical mass to finally begin to breach a persistent barrier to delivering the promise of opportunity to all our students, no matter what their family or geographic circumstances."

Michigan State said its contribution to the alliance includes sharing experience from its four-year-old Neighborhoods initiative to increase academic and economic mobility.

The alliance amounts to an about-face for schools that typically see each other as competitors in the search for the best students, said Arizona State President Michael M. Crow.

"This alliance will create a space where university leaders can come together and learn from one another, and all of us will benefit as we share, adapt and scale up ideas that have been proven to help students from all backgrounds," Crow said in a statement.

The donors include the Ford Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Kresge Foundation, Lumina Foundation, USA Funds, and the Markle Foundation.



Neighborhood initiative video:

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