Iowa State University’s provost, Jonathan Wickert, is in Washington, D.C. today with administrators from 10 other research universities to announce a program called the University Innovation Alliance. “The goal of the alliance is really to share innovations among the 11 schools that will help low-income and first-generation students succeed and get college degrees,” according to Wickert.

Wickert says the work will continue over the next three to five years. “We know that there is an achievement gap for low-income students — first to be able to come a university — and then actually be able to complete the program,” Wickert says. “And as we look at the nation’s workforce needs, we know that universities around the country need to redouble efforts to help those students.”

Each of the schools has been trying different approaches to the problem, and Wickert says that’s what he’ll find out about. “The entire concept behind the innovation is for each school to share the best practices that they have. So for us, we want to be able to learn from the other ten schools what has worked for them, and how we can deploy that here at Iowa State,” Wickert says.

He will share Iowa State’s use of what are called learning communities. “We’ve had learning communities at Iowa State University for about 20 years,” Wickert explains.”And we’ve found that it is a great program to improve the retention of students at the university, and also to increase their graduation rate. And we’ll be sharing with the other ten schools.”

The other the universities founding this project are: Arizona State, Georgia State, Michigan State, Oregon State, Purdue, Ohio State, University of Central Florida, University of Kansas, University of Texas at Austin, University of California, Riverside.