Penn State joins five-year APLU access and affordability initiative

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State will join 129 other public universities for a five-year initiative to study access and affordability measures to lower the barriers to higher education and help more students obtain degrees.

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) announced the Powered by Publics, Scaling Student Success initiative at its 131st annual meeting in November in New Orleans. Under the initiative, universities will participate in clusters of four to 12 institutions in different focus areas, then share information to allow for data-informed decisions.

Penn State’s cluster will be composed of fellow Big Ten Academic Alliance schools Indiana and Rutgers universities and the universities of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin. The clusters will tackle subjects such as financial aid and student financial literacy and career advising earlier in the academic journey.

Penn State President Eric Barron has made access and affordability one of his six key imperatives for the University. Just in the past three years, Penn State has launched programs such as the Pathway to Success Summer Start, the Sokolov-Miller Family Financial and Life Skills Center, and the Student Transition Experiences Program. Donors have also been generous in funding the Open Doors Scholarship Program to help students address financial obstacles as they complete their degrees.

“Penn State’s retention and graduation rates reflect our intuition’s high quality,” said Rob Pangborn, vice president and dean for Undergraduate Education. “However, we know that talented students leave us every year for reasons that should not impact their ability to earn a Penn State degree. Through focused effort and a willingness to learn from our peers, we are committed to supporting initiatives to positively impact all students while specifically assisting those most often left behind by higher education.”

APLU hopes to award hundreds of thousands more new degrees by 2025 through its members institutions. These colleges and universities collectively enroll more than 3 million students, 1 million of which receive Pell Grants.

“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.”

Nationwide, 56.9 percent of students completed their degree within six years, according to data compiled by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center on students who started in fall 2011. Four-year public universities fared better than the national average with a 64.7 percent completion rate, according to the study.

Undergraduate Education is the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at undergrad.psu.edu. Sign up for the Undergraduate Education Headlines for the latest news.