Crow announces pledge to increase graduation rates at national forum

people sitting on a stage

Arizona State University President Michael M. Crow on Thursday announced a pledge by the University Innovation Alliance to graduate 68,000 more students from 11 member institutions in the next decade.

Speaking at a national education forum convened by the White House, Crow said universities working together could change the culture and dynamics of higher education, and create new avenues for graduates from all economic and cultural backgrounds.

“We think that we can do that by innovating together, dramatically, and that’s what we’re excited about,” Crow, who chairs the alliance, said at Thursday’s White House event.

Crow made the announcement at the second College Opportunity Day of Action in Washington, D.C.

Hosted by President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama, the event expanded upon commitments made by more than 140 college presidents in January 2014 at the first such event.

Crow represented the University Innovation Alliance in the day’s first panel discussion.

The organization was formed in the fall of 2014 by 11 public research universities, including ASU. The UIA members collaborate on ways to produce more graduates, produce more graduates from lower socioeconomic status families, lower the cost of higher education, and share their findings with one another.

“We believe that we can produce fantastically capable college graduates from all family backgrounds at scale at a lower cost by innovating together,” Crow said.

Crow shared the stage with Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Gov. Bill Haslam, Republican, of Tennessee; Sebastian Thrun, CEO and co-founder of Udacity; and Candace Thille, assistant professor in the Stanford School of Education. The panel was moderated by Cecilia Munoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.

Both Crow and Hrabowski agreed that an important part of enabling student success is changing the attitude and the culture of higher education as we know it.

“We must change the systems, the methodologies, the culture and the dynamics,” said Crow.

Addressing the conference, President Obama praised the attendees attention to issues surrounding access to and graduation from institutions of higher education.

“All we did was ask a simple question: What can we do collectively to create more success stories…” President Obama said. “You collectively have responded to give more of our students a chance.”

Crow also announced Thursday that the four-year graduation rate at ASU has seen an increase of 20 percentage points between 2002 and 2010, with the most dramatic increase occurring after the introduction of a system called eAdvisor, which allows students to plot their progress toward a degree in real time.

“(That is) largely derivative of a highly innovative faculty willing to innovate in dramatic ways with the injection of technological tools that allow them to operate in ways that even they couldn’t imagine,” Crow said.

Since then, ASU has made many other investments to boost graduation rates, including the hiring of hundreds of tutors, the creation of focused learning communities on campus, the introduction of adaptive learning platforms and a “retention dashboard” that signals to administrators when a student needs additional support.

That collection of tools has had a significant impact on the success of students.

“It’s really unbelievable to see the outcomes,” Crow said.