CHAPEL HILL, NC – The UNC System is pleased to announce the winners of the inaugural Student Success Innovation Lab grant competition. Six UNC System institutions will receive funding for their efforts to help more students finish their degrees in a timely fashion.

Funded by the ECMC Foundation, the John M. Belk Endowment, Arnold Ventures and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, the Student Success Innovation Lab is designed to help UNC System universities develop and test new strategies for promoting student success. The grants will support innovative practices in three areas: teaching and learning, student services, and financial aid. The grants require each institution to partner with a third-party evaluator to measure and evaluate the impact of these strategies. Individual initiatives that prove successful can be scaled up at the home institution and, in some cases, expanded across the UNC System.

“Affordable tuition at our UNC System institutions gives North Carolinians the opportunity to pursue higher education. The Student Success Innovation Lab reflects the hard work we are doing to ensure that students have the support they need to seize this opportunity fully,” said UNC System Interim President William Roper.

“Certainly, other systems have given out money to support special initiatives, but they haven’t always paid as much attention to the need for rigorous evaluation,” said UNC System Senior Vice President for Strategy and Policy Andrew Kelly. “What we’re doing is unique, and it will enable the System and the state to learn more about what works to get students over the finish line and to make an evidence-based case for expansion of proven strategies.”

This year’s cohort of SSIL grant recipients includes:

  • North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University: The Aggie Success Academy will provide an immersive summer residence program that will integrate incoming first year students into the university community and prepare them for success at the college level.
  • East Carolina University: ECU will expand an existing Learning Assistant model to include additional gatekeeper courses in subject areas with high rates of D’s, fails, and withdraws (economics, foreign language, and math). The learning assistants are trained, near-peer undergraduate student instructors, who will co-teach courses with instructors while concurrently enrolled in a course on curriculum and pedagogy.
  • UNC Asheville: UNC Asheville will implement two student advising initiatives: a scheduling optimization tool and a full-time case manager, specifically to support students most likely to struggle academically.
  • UNC Charlotte: UNCC’s Funds to Finish program will use proactive advising to help students align academic goals with financial resources. Using an algorithmic index and other tools, UNCC’s advisors will be able to intervene when students struggle in gateway courses to help them re-conceptualize their academic pathways.
  • UNC Greensboro: UNCG’s Major Transition Advisors will proactively help those students who lose momentum to identify an alternative major, which may be a better fit and which may enable timely degree completion.
  • UNC Pembroke: UNCP will provide completion grants to students who are close to graduation but have unmet financial need and have exhausted all other sources of financial aid. Priority will be given to rural and low-income students.

These projects were developed in concert with six research affiliates—faculty from within the UNC System who were selected by the Student Success Innovation Lab on the basis of their expertise in education research. These research affiliates assisted the institutional teams in planning the projects and drafting proposals, and they will serve as the principal investigators to oversee the evaluation of the SSIL projects. The inaugural cohort of SSIL research affiliates includes:

  • Angela Dills, Professor of Economics at Western Carolina University
  • Nianbo Dong, Associate Professor of Quantitative Methods at UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Julie Edmunds, Program Director for Secondary School Reform at the SERVE Center at UNC Greensboro
  • Dora Gicheva, Associate Professor of Economics, UNC Greensboro
  • Steven Hemelt, Associate Professor of Public Policy at UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Carl Westine, Assistant Professor of Educational Research at UNC Charlotte