UNC Charlotte joins student experience project to increase graduation rates for all students

commencement ceremony
Monday, November 11, 2019
Student Experience Project Aims to Create Equitable Learning Environments

UNC Charlotte is one of six universities nationally selected to participate in the Student Experience Project (SEP). A collaborative of university leaders, faculty, researchers, and national education organizations today launched the SEP to put into practice more than a decade of social psychology research demonstrating positive experiences of community, belonging, and support on campus and in the classroom can increase a student’s likelihood of persevering through academic challenges toward graduation. 

As institutions of higher education enroll more diverse student populations than ever before, national data on college student success reveals the urgent need to design campus environments to foster equitable learning and achievement. While institutions are testing, implementing, and scaling innovative practices, they know that student experience must be transformed to ensure every student has an equal opportunity to graduate. At four-year institutions, 56.4 percent of students graduate within six years. Another 11.4 percent transfer to another institution and graduate within six years. Completion rates remain significantly lower among students of color, students from low-income income households, and those who are the first in their family to attend college, who face barriers to entry into college.

Every student deserves an equal opportunity to graduate. The six universities involved in the Student Experience Project are stepping up to advance a promising and bold new avenue for helping every student achieve a post-secondary degree,” said Shari Garmise, Executive Director of the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities and Vice President for Urban Initiatives at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, which are jointly providing support for the initiative. “Research shows that when students experience a sense of belonging and schools provide support in and out of the classroom, they’re more likely to persist through academic challenges and earn their degrees. We have emerging tools and the will to take action to change this.”

The six participating universities, which were selected from a national competition, are: Colorado State University, University of Colorado Denver, The University of New Mexico, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, University of Toledo, and Portland State University.

The institutions will collaborate on testing, implementing, and scaling innovative practices to transform the college student experience and support student success.   

The SEP will first launch with a focus on improving equity in students experience in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Significant data show that students in STEM fields face unique challenges to feeling a sense of belonging and staying on track academically. Once piloted among students in STEM disciplines, leaders will create replicable models that can be applied more broadly on campus, for students studying in all fields.

“Joining the SEP team is allowing me to bring my research to practice in helping to remove the equity gap for underserved students. With the collaboration across campus and institutions, we will be able to set more students up for success,” said Lisa Walker, associate dean for graduation and advising at UNC Charlotte.

The SEP is a partnership between six national education organizations committed to tackling inequities in college education: 


Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
Coalition of Urban Serving Universities
College Transition Collaborative

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