Fresno State is one of seven public urban research universities selected to participate in a one-year, innovative project that seeks to transform the way higher education is delivered.

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), in coordination with the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU), is managing the grant on behalf of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which funded the initiative.

Fresno State will receive $225,000 as part of the Transformational Planning Grant (TPG) project to research, develop and test new university business models that can increase access, improve success rates and find greater cost efficiencies.

The other grantees of the APLU are Florida International University, Georgia State University, Portland State University, Temple University, University of Akron and University of Illinois at Chicago.

Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro said his university will use the funding to bring regional public school and community college districts together to plan ways to improve pathways from kindergarten to college with tablet technology. A streamlined K-16 pipeline that propels students along learning pathways will improve student learning and success and save students, institutions and the state significant sums of money, he said.

“With the recent implementation of the DISCOVERe tablet initiative at Fresno State, the time is right for regional dialogue and collaboration to realize common goals for our Valley students,” Castro said.

APLU intends to use its national network to scale the most promising findings and practices of Fresno State and the six other grantees to help its more than 200 public university members across the country better meet the needs of their evolving student populations.

Fresno Strive, another regional project, will be involved to leverage its existing partnerships that seek to improve the success of children, from cradle to career, said Fresno State Provost Lynnette Zelezny, who is leading the transformational planning project.

“We can increase the retention and graduation rates at high schools, community colleges and at Fresno State,” she said. “This will strengthen the university’s relationship and pipeline with our feeder school districts and community colleges. Fresno State will have better prepared students ready to fully engage in their coursework.”

K-12 and community college teachers and Fresno State faculty will form learning communities that will allow them to share their work on a sustainable basis.

“Public research universities are being asked to educate more students and effectively prepare them for the workforce and society at the same time they continue to face reduced state and local funding,” APLU President Peter McPherson said. “Fresno State is well-positioned to identify effective ways forward that can help transform the delivery of public higher education as we know it.”

“The TPG project is an exciting realization of the unique role of urban serving universities,” said Shari Garmise, vice president for the USU/APLU Office of Urban Initiatives. “Harnessing the collective vision to increase access, deliver equity, improve urban life and strengthen the workforce presents a great opportunity to explore transformational change.

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