By 2018, more than 68 percent of all American jobs will require a post-secondary education, according to a recent Georgetown University study. That is a 40 percent increase from current job market requirements.

In response to these mounting standards, a premier online college for adults—University of Maryland University College—has initiated a project to close the achievement gap for underserved adult students and cultivate success interventions that will encourage associate degree seekers to transition to bachelor’s degree programs.

The college, which boasts rank as the country’s largest public university with 150 locations worldwide—21 of which are in Maryland—will collaborate with Prince George’s Community College and Montgomery College for the project.

UMUC President Susan C. Aldridge says the program, funded by a $1.2 million grant from the Kresge Foundation, positions the university to address attrition firsthand.

“This generous grant from the Kresge Foundation will allow us to explore the gap in student success, retention and graduation rates,” she said. “It will help us and our community college partners to identify the factors that hinder some students from reaching their education goals and allow us to develop better strategies for intervening proactively on their behalf.”

The effort calls for a three-staged process that will cultivate student success: extraction and analysis of student data from each school, comparison of “successful” and “unsuccessful” student strategies to create evidence-based alternatives to maximize student success and the development and dissemination of results.

“Every student will benefit from (this research project) but at-risk students will benefit the most,” said UMUC project official Husein Abdul-Hamid in a written statement. “It is known nationally while enrollment for under-represented and low-income populations has increased, the completion rates for these diverse students have not been commensurate with this increase.”

He says UMUC will use the three-year project as a catalyst to eliminate such disparities.

The “Developing Data-driven Predictive Models of Student Success” project will also lead to an integrated database system for partner institutions to analyze predictive models designed to increase rates of continuous enrollment and eventual graduation.

UMUC officials say the project will ultimately yield a replicable process that other schools can model to increase student persistence and graduation rates.


Shernay Williams

Special to the AFRO