News Release from AASCU


Contact: Jennifer Walpole (202) 478-4665


44 Participating Institutions to “Re-Imagine the First Year” to Create Sustainable Change in Student Success

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) launched “Re-Imagining the First Year of College” (RFY), a new project aimed at ensuring success for all students, particularly those who have historically been underserved by higher education: low income, first generation, and students of color. 

With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and USA Funds, AASCU has created a coalition of 44 member institutions that will work together for three calendar years (2016-2018) to develop comprehensive, institutional transformation that redesigns the first year of college and creates sustainable change for student success.

“Historically, AASCU and its members have been committed to student success with a particular concern for those students who have shown great promise but who have encountered stumbling blocks along the way,” says AASCU President Muriel Howard.

“The Re-Imagining the First Year of College initiative is further testament to this commitment. It is a groundbreaking collaboration that we believe will substantively and sustainably alter the first-year experience for students at the 44 AASCU member institutions who are participating. We are grateful to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and USA Funds for their support of this innovative project,” says Howard.

The first year of college has emerged as the critical barrier to college success, the point at which colleges experience the greatest loss of students. The RFY project recognizes that no single intervention will solve student performance, and that solutions that fail to reflect the differing needs of a changing student body will not be successful.

RFY seeks to inspire redesigned approaches that work effectively for all members of an increasingly diverse, multicultural, undergraduate student body, eliminating the achievement disparities that have plagued American higher education for generations. Ultimately, re-designing this critical first year will allow for broader reform of the undergraduate experience in the future.

“Increasing the number of Americans with college degrees is a critical national need,” says George Mehaffy, AASCU Vice President for Academic Leadership and Change.

“Research tells us that a college degree not only improves an individual’s economic well-being and overall quality of life, but also helps build the American middle class, assists in strengthening our democracy, and makes the United States stronger and more globally competitive. I am excited that so many AASCU institutions will commit their enormous talent and knowledge to the success of this initiative, which I believe will have a profound effect on undergraduate education in the 21st century,” says Mehaffy. 

The institutions participating in RFY will form a learning community that reviews and shares evidence-based practices, programs and implementation strategies. The RFY initiative entails a comprehensive, “top-down, bottom-up” approach that engages the whole campus in focusing on four key areas to help first-year students succeed: institutional intentionality, curriculum redesign, changes in faculty and staff roles, and changes in student roles.

Participants will receive extensive support through national meetings, expert webinars, individual consultation, and online resources and tools. The project will build a robust collection of integrated strategies, programs and approaches that participating campuses can adapt to improve student success. As the project advances, AASCU will share key findings with the broader higher education community.

The RFY team leaders from each of the 44 participating universities will meet in Austin, Texas on February 4 as part of AASCU’s Academic Affairs meeting to formally kick off the project.

For more information about RFY, please visit


Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo 
California State University Channel Islands
California State University, Dominguez Hills
California State University, Long Beach 
California State University Monterey Bay
California State University, Northridge
Central Michigan University
Cleveland State University
Dixie State University
Fayetteville State University
Fitchburg State University
Fort Hays State University
Framingham State University
Governors State University
Harris-Stowe State University
Humboldt State University 
Indiana University—Kokomo
Indiana University—East 
Indiana University—Northwest
Indiana University—South Bend
Indiana University—Southeast
Jacksonville State University   
Kennesaw State University
Metropolitan State University of Denver
Minnesota State University, Mankato
New Jersey City University
North Carolina Central University  
Northern Arizona University
Salisbury University
St. Cloud State University
Sam Houston State University
Southern Oregon University
State University of New York at Fredonia
Stephen F. Austin State University
Stockton University
Tarleton State University
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
University of Central Florida 
University of North Texas at Dallas
University of Wisconsin—La Crosse
University of Wisconsin—Whitewater
Utah Valley University
Washington State University Vancouver
Winston-Salem State University


The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) is a Washington, D.C.-based higher education association of more than 400 public colleges, universities, and systems whose members share a learning- and teaching-centered culture, a historic commitment to underserved student populations, and a dedication to research and creativity that advances their regions’ economic progress and cultural development.