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Arizona State University last week announced that the Charles Koch Foundation and a group of other philanthropies will give the university $12 million for an initiative aimed at driving innovations across higher education in the U.S.

ASU's University Design Institute is coordinating the effort to support other universities in "culture change initiatives" that are designed to broaden access to high-quality postsecondary education, in part with technological innovations that seek to be more responsive to student needs.

The project also plans to accelerate the development of a stackable credential system, initially aimed at ASU, where smaller credentials will more smoothly add up to more comprehensive ones, presumably including degrees. It also will focus on developing technological components for the world's first "Trusted Learner Network," which seeks to replace college transcripts with a verifiable, learner-owned record system. This new approach would feature competency-based credentials that the learner would have more control over than current transcripts.

"The work advanced through this partnership will drive a culture change and the commitment to redesign and restructure higher education that we embrace at ASU and that is critical to the success of students across the country," Michael Crow, ASU's president, said in a statement. "The public health pandemic that has swept the globe and the stress it has placed on our education system has exposed weaknesses that have existed for years. Universities are being forced to adapt right now and so we're saying, 'let's take advantage of this opportunity' and let's build things in a way that serves the learner in a new world that doesn't look anything like the one that existed when most of America's institutions of higher learning were designed."