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Utah higher education selected for multi-state collaboration

Published: Monday, April 7 2014 2:15 p.m. MDT

The Utah System of Higher Education was selected Monday by the Bill & Melinda Gates to join 12 higher education systems exploring solutions for common issues.

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah System of Higher Education was selected Monday to join 12 other higher education systems nationwide in exploring solutions for at-risk student populations.

The multi-state collaboration, organized by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, includes a $200,000 grant as state education officials work to increase access to and outcomes from Utah's colleges and universities.

"This grant proves that Utah is innovative on a number of fronts as we seek to increase college preparation, participation and completion," David Buhler, commissioner of higher education, said in a prepared statement. "Partnering with other state higher education systems will allow us to brainstorm new strategies and identify best practices on a nationwide scale, further ensuring that public higher education in Utah is accessible, affordable and high quality.”

Utah's grant proposal identified a number of issues related to the state's goal to have two-thirds of Utah adults holding a postsecondary degree or certificate by the year 2020. That goal, commonly referred to as "66 by 2020," has been endorsed by the Utah Legislature and is major plank of Gov. Gary Herbert's education agenda.

State education officials intend to use the grant money and collaboration to focus on ways to address the roughly 27 percent of Utahns with an incomplete college education, redefine statewide math requirements to more effectively meet student needs and implement a system of predictive analytics to improve admissions and retention.

Melanie Heath, spokeswoman for the Utah System of Higher Education, said the goal is to better identify incoming students who require assistance during the admissions process and provide them with the information they need.

"Their hope is to implement these predictive analytics throughout the system so they can find which kids they need to get in touch with and make sure they get connected to an adviser," she said.

In a prepared statement, Melissa Miller Kincart, assistant commissioner of outreach and access, said the grant will put Utah in a position to learn from the successes of other states.

"We are eager to learn from our peer systems as we discuss transformational practices,” she said. “We look forward to participating in this collaborative effort that will advance our efforts to improve student access and success both statewide and at institutional levels.”

Email: benwood@deseretnews.com

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