UCF’s many partnerships and emphasis on expanding students’ access to a high-quality education make the university a national model, a report released today by the New America Foundation concludes.

The report outlines the successes of UCF and five other public research universities – referred to as “Next Generation Universities.” Programs at each of the universities form the backbone of a discussion about the importance of increasing access and achieving higher graduation rates in a cost-effective manner, particularly at a time when the U.S. needs more college graduates with high-quality degrees.

Jeff Selingo, editor at large of The Chronicle of Higher Education, is the report’s lead author. UCF President John C. Hitt joined Selingo and leaders of the other five institutions at a panel discussion Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

“We’ve grown, but our goal was never to be big,” President Hitt told the report’s authors during a February interview. “We’ve grown to offer access and opportunity to qualified students, and we won’t stop until we can’t do that any longer.”

UCF initiatives featured in the report include:

  • DirectConnect to UCF, which guarantees admission to graduates of four area community and state colleges and strives to help students make a smooth transition to the university. Many students also take UCF classes on the community and state college campuses.
  • A focus on providing online and mixed-mode courses to accommodate growing demand from students, and an emphasis on training faculty members to teach those courses. The report quotes April Krempasky, an elementary education major who said she is on track to graduate in 4 ½ years with 140 credits despite working more than 30 hours a week: “Having different formats is a lifesaver. I wouldn’t have been able to graduate this quickly if I didn’t have options.”
  • An emphasis on partnerships as a way to grow during a time of declining state investments in higher education. The report cites the growing Medical City at Lake Nona as well as Mayor Buddy Dyer’s vision of a downtown Creative Village anchored by UCF’s Center for Emerging Media, home to several fine arts and digital media programs.
  • The report’s primary recommendations to universities include increasing their size to ensure broad access to students and also creating direct connections between two- and four-year colleges to enhance access for transfer students.

    “The universities featured in this paper are creating a different pathway to the future,” the report said. “The problem is that too few colleges and universities are following them.”

    The other five institutions featured in the report are Arizona State University, Georgia State University, the University at Buffalo, University of California at Riverside and the University of Texas at Arlington. To view the full report, visit the New America Foundation website.