UT participates in nationwide initiative to help low income students

Laura Morales

The University will participate in a new multi-institution collaborative effort to award more degrees to low-income, first-generation and minority students. 

The Powered by Publics initiative collects metrics on what programs are successful in helping these students, and is organized by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. It involves 130 institutions that are separated into clusters of similar universities with a common focus. UT is clustered with tier-one public research universities focusing on helping first-year students.

This collaboration is driven by UT President Gregory Fenves’ initiative to help close the achievement gap for students within these groups. Harrison Keller, deputy to the president for strategy and policy, will work with Fenves to coordinate the effort between UT and the APLU.

“This resonates strongly with President Fenves,” Keller said. “It is important for UT-Austin to work on being an engine of upward mobility for all students, particularly students from low-income backgrounds.”

The universities will collect data on how to retain and maximize student success. Kathleen Brock, senior director to the president for strategy and policy, sees this effort as an opportunity to improve.

“This is an opportunity to collaborate with peer institutions, see what they’re learning and share what we are learning,” Brock said. “It allows us to do what we do here on campus, but do it at scale and potentially impact even more students.”

Fenves will be chairing the cluster of large public research universities and was chosen because UT came to the APLU with a proposal for how to improve the studies of these students’ performances. UT had its first in-person meeting with other universities participating earlier this month. Julia Michaels, deputy executive director of the APLU Center for Public University Transformation, said she believes that UT is positioned to lead this large effort because of its commitment to adapt to the change in student demographics.

“These universities recognize their need to educate different types of students than they were before,” Michaels said. “Students are more diverse, they’re older, they’re transferring. The student journey has really changed. We are asking universities that are participating in this to take a deep look at their data and understand who are their students, and in doing so, they can understand how they can change their policies.”

Correction: A previous version of this article referenced Julia Michaels as the deputy executive director of the Center for Public University Transformation, when she is the deputy executive director of the APLU Center for Public University Transformation. It also incorrectly said that the participating universities will be collecting retention rates and GPA in order to measure student success. The Texan regrets this error.