The University of Central Florida increased the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to low-income students by 58 percent and to students of color by 68 percent over the last seven years, contributing to a new graduation milestone achieved by a national consortium of innovative public research universities.

The University Innovation Alliance (UIA) announced today that they have exceeded graduation targets set during former President Barack Obama’s College Opportunity Summit. At its launch in 2014, the UIA presidents set a goal to graduate an additional 68,000 students with bachelor’s degrees above their baseline projections over the course of 10 years, and committed that half of those students graduated would come from low-income backgrounds.

Six years in, the UIA schools have exceeded that goal by graduating an additional 73,573 students across the 11 member institutions, increasing the number of graduates from low-income backgrounds by 36 percent and graduates of color by 73 percent. The institutions are now projected to graduate a total of 136,000 by 2023 — double the original goal launched at the White House College Opportunity Day of Action in 2014.

Of those additional 73,573 degrees above the 2012-13 baseline across the UIA, UCF awarded 6,495 of them. UCF awarded 14,094 bachelor’s degrees in 2019-20, up from 12,080 in 2012-13 and an increase of 17 percent.

During that same time, the university increased the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to low-income students from 3,775 to 5,960 (58 percent) and the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to students of color by 68 percent from 3,541 to 5,941. For Hispanic students, the number increased 74 percent from 2,183 to 3,806.

“Through individualized academic, advising, counseling and mentoring support, our staff and faculty are dedicated to helping our low-income students and students of color earn their degrees and succeed after graduation,” says UCF President Alexander N. Cartwright. “The graduation success stories at UCF and across the University Innovation Alliance will impact lives throughout our country for generations.”

Black woman student in cap and gown smiles at the camera
UCF awarded 14,094 bachelor’s degrees in 2019-20, up from 12,080 in 2012-13 and an increase of 17 percent. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)

A few examples of UCF’s programs supporting students include:

DirectConnect to UCF provides guaranteed admission to students completing their associate degrees with one of six state college partners, creating a pathway to high-quality and affordable education for thousands of graduates each year. UCF’s team of success coaches work directly with transfer students to provide one-on-one coaching from pre-admission through graduation.

UCF also offers completion grants and emergency funds to help provide a boost to students in financial distress.

UCF offers Access, a six-week, conditional admission program held each summer that helps first-time-in-college students bridge the gap between high school and their academic career at UCF. More than half of these participants are Black and Hispanic. Since its inception in 2012, the program has maintained an average retention rate of 97 percent.

UCF’s Multicultural Academic Support and Services assists multicultural and first-generation college students by connecting them with the campus community and partners to promote and facilitate academic support services and programs. One example is Brother to Brother, which began in 2008 to address retention and graduation rates for multicultural males, primarily Black and Hispanic.

As part of the UIA’s next phase of work, campuses will focus on eliminating disparities in educational outcomes based on race and ethnicity — in addition to doubling down on a focus to address disparities by income, generational status, gender and geography.

Since its founding, the UIA has worked together to test, iterate and scale proven student success initiatives — such as predictive analytics, proactive advising, completion grants, student success chatbots and new career services — across its network. Most recently, the Alliance released its Completion Grant Playbook, based on its pilot to provide $3.6 million worth of small grants to help nearly 5,000 students complete their degree or remain enrolled in the university.

“UCF and its leadership have been a critical partner in our efforts to advance an ambitious agenda on the behalf of students,” says UIA Executive Director Bridget Burns. “The campus should be very proud of its progress to date, but we all know there’s more work to be done and we look forward to this next phase of collaboration and innovation.”

To learn more about the University Innovation Alliance’s work to date, visit

About the University Innovation Alliance

The University Innovation Alliance is a national consortium of large public research universities spanning the geographic, economic and social diversity of our country. Together, we are working to regain America’s economic competitive edge by helping more students graduate with a high-quality and affordable education. We do this by broadening participation in higher education and implementing proven programs that significantly improve graduation rates for all students regardless of socioeconomic background.  Founding members of the Alliance include: Arizona State University, Georgia State University, Iowa State University, Michigan State University, Oregon State University, Purdue University, The Ohio State University, University of California, Riverside, University of Central Florida, University of Kansas, and The University of Texas at Austin. For more information, visit