Recent Changes to the First in the World Program

Posted By Carrie Wiley on April 1, 2015 at 2:30 pm
Recent Changes to the First in the World Program

In 1990, the United States ranked first in the world for the number of college graduates it produced. Today, it does not even make it into the top ten. And along failing to produce a high proportion of graduates, the U.S. is also failing to make higher education available to poor, minority, and other underserved students.

In an effort to give more students access to a college education, and to better support college students so they can achieve graduation, the U.S. Department of Education launched the First in the World program in May of 2014. The goal of the program is to bring the U.S. back to being a world leader in graduation rates by 2020.

Unlike previous programs directed at students, this program was designed to inspire and help institution find creative ways to make college more accessible and more affordable for low-income, minority, and other underrepresented groups. All public and private non-profit institutions of higher education are welcome to apply to the program. Additional consideration is also given to schools that qualify as Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs).

Grant funding

The initial funding for the 2014 First in the World program was $75 million, with an additional $20 million for MSIs. 24 colleges and universities were selected for the first round of awards, including six Minority Serving Institutions. The average award was around $3 million per school. Looking ahead, the U.S. Secretary of Education has requested $100 million in funding along with an additional $75 million for MSIs, so that the program can be expanded to more schools.

Changes to the program

The first iteration of the First in the World program prioritized plans that addressed community college transfer rates, enrollment in STEM programs, time to completion, and affordability. For the next iteration of the program, the Department of Education will focus on different areas, although low-income, minority, and other underrepresented students are still a primary target. The new list of priorities includes:

  1. Improved success in developmental education
  2. Improving teaching and learning
  3. Improving student support services
  4. Developing and using assessments of learning
  5. Facilitating pathways to credentialing and transfer
  6. Increasing the effectiveness of financial aid
  7. Implementing low-cost, high-impact strategies to improve outcomes
  8. Improving postsecondary student outcomes at Minority Serving Institutions
  9. Systems and consortia focused on large-scale impact

Success of the program

The first wave of the First in the World program brought in more than 500 applications for consideration. Some of the ideas that received funding included redesigning large, lecture format courses to engage students better, especially for STEM undergraduates. Another funded idea included providing more technology tools to students, along with a project-based curriculum. The Department of Education will follow these projects as they develop and grow, and develop a set of best practices from each to bring the innovations to a wider audience.

Carrie Wiley
Email | Twitter | LinkedIn Carrie is graduate of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. She has a degree in English and Journalism with a concentration in Professional Writing. She served as news editor of The Seahawk campus newspaper. Since college, Carrie has worked in various digital marketing roles focusing mostly on media relations. Her writing has been featured in Yahoo! Homes and AOL Real Estate. In addition to being GoodCall's Public Relations and Communications expert, Carrie is also a regular contributor to the GoodCall newsroom, covering higher education trends and career news.

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