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UMUC part of group of University System of Maryland institutions to receive nearly $3 million to develop new math pathways to boost retention and college completion

University of Maryland University College (UMUC) is part of a group of University System of Maryland (USM) institutions and Maryland community colleges that has received a nearly $3 million U.S. Department of Education "First in the World" grant over the next four years to develop mathematics pathways that will lead to improved retention and college completion.

As part of the "First in the World" grant, UMUC—through its work under the USM's Maryland Mathematics Reform Initiative—will develop a statistics course that will serve as an alternative to college algebra and fulfill general math requirements for students in liberal arts and social sciences programs.

Among other obstacles that students—particularly low-income students—face in pursuit of postsecondary education, many discover that they are not sufficiently prepared for a college-level curriculum and must enroll in remedial courses to make up for deficits in their knowledge and skills. These courses often do not count as college credit even though students spend valuable time and tuition dollars completing them.

UMUC is an open access, four-year public university that enrolls more than 76,000 undergraduate students, of whom 47% are minority group members, 20% receive Pell grants, and 37% are first-generation college attendees. Students who fall into these categories often need remedial courses to succeed in college-level classes.

"The ultimate goal is to equip the great majority of our students with the quantitative literacy and statistics skills they need to succeed in their field of study and in the workplace," said Matthew Prineas, dean of The Undergraduate School at UMUC. "Today, the general education math requirement is college algebra, which may not provide the specific skills that non-STEM students need for their course of study. Research supports that providing students with more relevant pathways, such as statistics, can improve rates of retention and completion."

According to UMUC's application for the grant, the top priority is improving teaching and learning by focusing on the development, implementation, and evaluation of a statistics pathway to accelerate developmental students’ progress into credit-bearing postsecondary courses while helping more of those students reach certificate or degree completion effectively and efficiently.

Another goal of the initiative is to accelerate progress to a degree, thereby reducing costs for students. It is estimated that students in Maryland spend $72 million a year on developmental education.

A key component of this work will also be professional development for faculty. UMUC faculty will be working with other USM schools and community colleges to develop these new pathways. Consequently, faculty will have greater access to research about what students need to succeed.

UMUC also supports the initiative's emphasis on inter-institutional collaboration and "looks forward to growing, learning, and sharing with the other USM institutions and community colleges that are part of the 'First in the World' grant," Prineas added.

About UMUC

UMUC was recently named 2015 Global Educator of the Year by the World Affairs Council of Washington, D.C., for its role as a leader in innovative education models. It is also currently ranked as the #1 "Best for Vets" college by Military Times and has received the prestigious 2015 President’s Award from the Open Education Consortium for its plan to replace publisher textbooks with embedded digital resources in all classes by fall 2016. In addition, UMUC’s cyber competition teams have won 10 titles in the past four years, including the 2014 Global CyberLympics in Barcelona, Spain, and the first-ever Cyber DiploHack, sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

A pioneer in distance education since 1947, UMUC today is harnessing the power of learning science and technology to deliver high-quality education that is accessible and affordable. UMUC offers open access with a global footprint and a specific mission—to meet the learning needs of adult students whose responsibilities may include jobs, family, and military service.