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A group of 15 colleges and universities was selected to participate in the initial phase of a $10 million initiative by the Strada Education Network and the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity, a group of campus leaders focused on pandemic recovery. The first round of grants, totaling $3.75 million, were announced today. 

Each institution will receive $250,000 to embark on a project to expand career services and support, incorporate career preparation into curricula, and improve job outcomes among students, according to an announcement by the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity. 

The University of Oregon, for example, is using the funds to create a new six-month, cohort-based career-preparedness program for students of color and low-income students. The University of Texas system plans to redesign undergraduate degrees to incorporate relevant microcredentials and skills badges.

James Milliken, chancellor of the University of Texas system, said the goal is to give students a “competitive edge.”

“This grant will help undergraduate students across the UT System transition into high-value careers by expanding access to micro-credentials that arm students with the skills most valued by Texas employers,” he said in a press release.

Strada and the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity will provide more than $6 million in additional funds later this year to expand on these projects and will work with recipients over the course of the year to share best practices.

“As we recover from a worldwide pandemic, we understand that our economy and our education system are changing dramatically,” Ruth Watkins, president of Strada Impact, said in the release. “The good news is that institutions of higher learning are rising to the challenge, and are shifting their focus beyond completion of credentials and degrees. The Beyond Completion Challenge was designed not just to come up with new ideas for how to achieve that goal, but to put resources behind them so that more students can benefit.”

Note: This article was updated to reflect corrections of the date of the announcement of the grants and the amount distributed so far.