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Seven Innovative Universities Team Up to Close Gap Between College and Work

PORTLAND, OR – The University Innovation Alliance (UIA) has announced that it has received a $2.4 million grant from Strada Education Network to identify, test, and scale strategies to improve undergraduate career readiness for at-risk students through an unprecedented collaboration among several of the nation's largest research universities.

"Career services are a natural evolution of focus for the student success movement. If we abandon low-income or first-generation students at graduation with a poorly designed handoff between college-to-career, we risk failing to deliver on the full promise of higher education," says Dr. Bridget Burns, executive director of the University Innovation Alliance. "Strada Education Network understands that innovation starts with listening to, and understanding, the perspective of students. This project is about providing career services professionals with the capacity and time to redesign career readiness in order to better prepare students for an increasingly dynamic future of work."

Consistent with the organization's pioneering approach to scaling promising practices across universities that ordinarily compete, this initiative is built on an intensive analysis of students' experiences with current career-related activities on seven UIA campuses: Arizona State University, Georgia State University, The Ohio State University, Oregon State University, Purdue University, the University of California–Riverside, and the University of Central Florida.

By mapping processes and systems on each campus, teams specially convened for this project, led by career services professionals, will identify where students are encountering roadblocks on the bridge from college to career. University leaders have committed to sharing common challenges and successful strategies for overcoming them to help students make a stronger transition from college to the world of work.  

"Education consumers are telling us, loud and clear, that they're looking for stronger connections between our nation's colleges and employers. They're asking for help making the case that their education is relevant," says Carol D'Amico, executive vice president, National Engagement and Philanthropy at Strada Education Network. "The University Innovation Alliance is not only doing the hard work of mapping the real-world experiences of students, they're building trust among institutional leaders that are often afraid to share their challenges."

Recent research suggests that a graduate's first job can have profound, long-term economic implications. According to a report from Strada Institute for the Future of Work, 43 percent of recent college graduates are underemployed in their first job out of college. Of those, more than half remain so after 10 years. By contrast, just one in ten graduates who land a first job appropriate to their skill level slip into underemployment after five years.

"Effectively serving today's students means being clear-eyed about the barriers that institutions—sometimes unknowingly—may be creating for students," says Oregon State University President Ed Ray, a UIA member. "This is about rethinking the way we help students prepare for and land the right first job after graduation. It reflects a belief that translating education into economic opportunity is absolutely central to our mission."

Although a Strada-Gallup survey of more than 23,000 adults found that career advice from employers is among the most highly valued, just 20 percent of students report receiving advice from work-based sources. Following the UIA's process of identifying barriers and opportunities, the UIA plans to engage interested employers to co-create and scale new innovations that support students' transition from higher education to the workplace.

About the University Innovation Alliance
The University Innovation Alliance is the leading national coalition of public research universities committed to increasing the number and diversity of college graduates in the U.S. We do this by broadening participation in higher education and implementing proven programs that significantly improve graduation rates for all students regardless of socioeconomic background. Since our founding, the UIA's eleven campuses have produced an additional 27,000 low-income graduates—a 29 percent  increase.

The 11 members of the Alliance include: Arizona State University, Georgia State University, Iowa State University, Michigan State University, Oregon State University, Purdue University, The Ohio State University, University of California–Riverside, University of Central Florida, University of Kansas, and The University of Texas at Austin. For more information, visit www.theUIA.org.

About Strada Education Network
Strada Education Network is a national nonprofit dedicated to improving lives by catalyzing more direct and promising pathways between education and employment. The Network engages partners across education, nonprofits, business, and government to focus relentlessly on students' success throughout all phases of their working lives. Together, they address critical college to career challenges through strategic philanthropy, research and insights, and mission-aligned affiliates—all focused on advancing the universal right to realized potential called Completion With a Purpose®. Learn more at StradaEducation.org.

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