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A consortium of research universities announced today that it is starting a new initiative to provide students with grants that help them face financial challenges as they near graduation.

The new initiative from the University Innovation Alliance -- which includes 11 public research universities -- will provide completion grants to students facing financial pressure in their last semester. Early data shows that about 4,000 Pell-eligible college seniors who are in good academic standing are at risk of being dropped from their classes or not allowed to graduate because they owe less than $1,000 to their institutions.

The emergency aid will be available to students this fall through funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates.

"Some well-intentioned policies or practices can become a barrier to student completion," said Bridget Burns, executive director of the UIA, in a news release. "By first tapping predictive analytics, our institutions have been able to more easily surface and address those barriers. Providing needed aid to students who are close to graduation is yet another example of how collaboration among our institutions is bringing new solutions to light."

The UIA member universities include Arizona State, Georgia State, Iowa State, Michigan State, Oregon State, Purdue and Ohio State Universities and the Universities of California, Riverside; Central Florida; Kansas and Texas at Austin.