There’s strength in numbers, and nowhere is that more evident than in the world of higher education innovation.

I recently had the honor of taking part in a panel discussion, hosted by New America, about the progress of the University Innovation Alliance. The alliance is a group of 11 institutions that are using innovative practices to serve more students, and more effectively.

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These next-generation universities are tackling some of the biggest issues facing today’s campuses, using approaches like predictive analytics and intensive advising. Their goal: to improve outcomes for all students, regardless of background.

The UIA is showing that, by working together and bringing solutions to scale, higher education institutions can make a real difference for their students and their communities.

USA Funds® is one of six private organizations funding the work of UIA. The UIA participating schools’ clear commitment to collaboration is one reason its initiatives are such a good fit for USA Funds’ support.

Taking part in the panel discussion “Defining Next Generation Universities” were, from left: David Leonhardt of The New York Times, Hilary Pennington of Ford Foundation, Tina Gridiron of Lumina Foundation, Alison Griffin of USA Funds, and Kevin Carey of New America.

USA Funds’ guiding principle is Completion With a Purpose®: enhancing postsecondary education completion rates while also helping graduates more successfully launch into rewarding careers. One way we advance Completion With a Purpose is by partnering with groups of institutions whose focused leaders — working together — are transforming the way we prepare students for careers and life in ways that individual action can’t.

It’s through collaboration, like that shown in the work of the UIA, that institutions have the greatest capacity to tap into the pipeline of students most at risk of not receiving postsecondary degrees.

Working as a team, institutions can learn from each other even as they’re developing and implementing innovative approaches to higher education. And then, once their efforts yield results, the reach of a group of institutions is greater than that of a single university to share the ideas and outcomes with others.

The UIA is showing that, by working together and bringing solutions to scale, higher education institutions can make a real difference for their students and their communities.

UIA member Georgia State University, for example, has found that a data-driven, personalized advising system helps to close achievement gaps for at-risk students. And Arizona State University, also a member of the alliance, is another example of success in data-driven student advising; the institution has implemented an electronic program that closely monitors and alerts students of their academic progress.

In these cases — and in other UIA success stories — an entire group of institutions then works together to implement similar programs on their own campuses and spread the word to others.

This collaborative approach to higher education innovation hasn’t been the norm, but endeavors like UIA point to a new era of enhancing student outcomes. The old protect-and-defend mentality is beginning to give way to efforts that tap into the collective strength of universities, to better address access and completion challenges for students from all walks of life.

It’s a change in mindset that already is paying dividends in helping to ensure the economic mobility of students and communities universities serve.

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