American Association of State Colleges and Universities Re-Imagining the First Year of College

One of the key milestones in a college student’s path to success is the first year in college. Many students never make it to their second year, due to financial challenges, academic problems, social issues or a lack of adequate support.

USA Funds is supporting a major initiative involving 44 public universities to improve the first-year college experience so that students persist to their second year and to graduation.

USA Funds has awarded a three-year, $328,000 grant to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities for implementation of its “Re-Imagining the First Year of College” initiative. A grant to AASCU from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is funding the current planning phase of the initiative.

AASCU is an association that represents 420 colleges, universities and university systems. During the next three years, the universities that AASCU selects to participate in this initiative will implement, test and evaluate the results of best practices for increasing retention rates and academic success of first- year students.

These best practices may involve redesigning some of the following elements of the first-year experience:

  • Academic advising.
  • Administrative structures.
  • Financial support.
  • Curriculum design, for example, developmental education, new assessment models, competency-based learning, course redesign.
  • Peer mentoring of students
  • New-student leadership programming.
  • Faculty centers for innovative teaching.
  • Supplemental instruction.

Although the project will focus on all first-year students at the participating institutions, it will place a special emphasis on first-generation students and historically underserved student populations who are at higher risk for dropping out of college. The goal is to identify best practices that increase student retention between the first and second years, and ultimately support student persistence to graduation.

The grant supports USA Funds’ focus on Completion With a Purpose by developing evidence-based ways that colleges and universities can promote the success of more of their students. This project also advances USA Funds strategy to support Innovation in College and Career Preparation to enhance college completion rates.