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Three Universities Model Ways to Improve Graduation for Low-Income Students

Students of color, first-generation college students, and low-income students are less likely to go to college and take longer to graduate than others, but a new report highlights three public universities defying the odds.

The University of California in Riverside,  the University of South Florida in Tampa, and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte have been intentional about providing enough need-based aid and support programs to increase the enrollment of disadvantaged students and nearly erase the graduation gaps across demographic groups.

An issue brief released this week from the Washington-based Center for American Progress underscores the critical role that summer bridge programs can play. For example, a UC summer program in Riverside for low-income, Hispanic and transfer students helps them catch up in core subjects and familiarize them with university services. In Florida, students who participated in the Freshman Summer Institute had a 90 percent retention rate between their freshman and sophomore years.

First-year transition programs were also key in achieving equal degree attainment. UNC Charlotte discovered that learning communities by major and freshmen-specific seminars were particularly effective. USF in Tampa increased the number of academic advisers, required freshmen to live on campus, improved opportunities for on-campus employment, and encouraged students to get involved in campus life. Officials in Riverside attributed its gains in helping new students who arrive on campus academically unprepared to a supplemental learning program and offering first-year learning communities.

For all these initiatives to work, the brief by Antoinette Flores, a CAP policy analyst, underscored the importance of committed leadership at these three institutions.

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