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Partnerships for Adult Learner Success

Bridging relationships to (re)connect adult learners of color to the college classroom.

Partnerships for Adult Learner Success Initiative (PALS) provides funding to eight public urban institutions over two years as they seek to innovate and build more inclusive, agile, and comprehensive student success pathways and supports for adult learners of color. Public urban universities are often at the helm of innovative efforts to redesign traditional structures and curriculum to improve access and success for students of color and adult learners writ large.

PALS supports a subset of USU member institutions to focus specifically on Black, Latino, and Indigenous adult learners to achieve the following objectives:

  • Contribute to the knowledge base about the Black, Latino, and Indigenous adult learners, articulating their assets and systemic barriers to success

  • Engage urban universities, partner organizations, and employers in cross-institutional, multi-disciplinary learning opportunities to increase institutional capacity for change while centering on the success of Black, Latino, and Indigenous adult learners

  • Build and disseminate an ecosystem/partnership framework for Black, Latino, and Indigenous adult learner success

  • Critically examine deficit-based advising, (re)enrollment, and student support practices and frameworks

  • Incubate and pilot new equity-based student success approaches

  • Test existing models and promising practices that center on Black, Latino, and Indigenous adult learners


Meet The Grantees

Learning Opportunities

Fall 2021 Convening


Held virtually, the first convening of PALS introduced the eight institutional cohorts to one another. The grantees engaged with presenters from most of our learning partners and technical assistants, including the Lumina Foundation, Mathematica, the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), and the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA). In addition, each grantee was introduced to their peers’ projects to begin understanding the landscape of the policy landscape being researched, assessed, and tested by the various urban-serving universities.  

Spring 2023 Convening

University of Memphis

Our third convening was held in Memphis, TN at the University of Memphis. During the convening, our conversations focused on sustaining and scaling the work of PALS for the future. Our special guests included Ascend at the Aspen Institute, the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), and Mathematica. We engaged in a design thinking activity that allowed grantees to engage in creative and thoughtful thinking centered on the experiences of urban adult learners of color. The convening gave participants another opportunity to learn from peer institutions and learn more about the success and challenges of creating system-wide change for adult learners on their campuses.

Fall 2022 Convening

University of Illinois Chicago

The second PALS convening was hosted in-person by the University of Illinois Chicago. This convening focused on pushing the grantees forward in their work and considering the challenges and barriers that exist in urban, four-year universities. The grantees were joined by partners and technical assistants from Mathematica, Community Design Group, the American Institutes of Research (AIR), and Awakening Minds. Participants left with a deeper understanding of the equity implications for adult learners of color and their inclusion in campus policymaking. 

Spring 2024 Convening


More information to be announce in January 2024.

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