The University of Southern California is among 24 colleges and universities picked by the U.S. Education Department for $75 million in federal "First in the World" grants to foster innovation.
USC researcher Zoe Corwin said Tuesday the $3.2 million will go toward expanding a video game designed to help students learn to navigate the college application process.
Corwin said the university started the Facebook game four years ago to make the process less intimidating for low-income students who are often the first in their families to go to college.
The grant will fund transferring the game to a mobile platform so it can be used by teachers in classrooms and students at home. It will also fund research to assess whether the game is resulting in more underserved students applying to college.
Five hundred schools applied to the new competition, with the goal of fostering innovation in college value and efficiency. Applicants submitted proposals with plans in areas such as improving graduation rates, making it smoother to transfer between schools and increasing enrollment in science and technology programs.
Another example: Purdue University in Indiana says it will use its winning $2.3 million grant to redesign large lecture courses in areas such as science to more fully engage students.
And, in New York, LaGuardia Community College says it will use $2.9 million it was awarded to strengthen its curriculum to better assess students and track their progress.