News Release from AASCU


Contact: Jennifer Walpole (202) 478-4665


AASCU and six of its member institutions join the “Frontier Set” to drive institutional transformation and close the opportunity gaps for every student

WASHINGTON, D.C.—On February 1, 2017, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) joined a national initiative, the “Frontier Set” (FS), a project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to identify successful strategies to improve graduation rates, especially for low-income, first generation and students of color. Six AASCU institutions were selected to participate in the project.

The Frontier Set brings together 31 institutions and support partners representing the diversity of higher education, around ambitious goals for student success through institutional transformation. The Frontier Set is composed of state systems, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Association of Public and Land-grant Universities’ Coalition of Urban Serving Universities, and University Innovation Alliance members. Sites joining in 2017 include community colleges partnering with the Aspen Institute, and four-year regional comprehensive universities partnering with AASCU.   

AASCU received a $6 million grant to work with a cohort of six high-potential regional comprehensive AASCU member institutions that are already integrating evidence-based solutions and showing significant improvement in their credentialing productivity—transforming key aspects of their educational and business models. AASCU will work with associations from other sectors of higher education, each with their own member institutions, to create a comprehensive set of ideas for institutional transformation across sectors. The six AASCU member institutions will accelerate their own institutional improvement work, share ideas and best practices with other institutions in the consortium, and disseminate best practices to other higher education institutions.    

“The current pipeline of students approaching college age is dramatically different from what it was a generation ago. Yesterday’s nontraditional student is today’s traditional student,” said AASCU President Muriel Howard. “As we look to the future, stakes are high, and getting higher. The Frontier Set initiative is a testament of our commitment to accelerating and adapting innovative approaches that support student success and institutional transformation across our member universities. We are grateful to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for their support of this innovative project.”   

The FS is a community of innovative thought leaders working together to drive institutional transformation and close opportunity gaps for every student, and they are charged with accelerating progress by sharing the “how” surrounding implementation and transformation. Their mission is to share in-progress work, build sustainable relationships, reflect openly, and capture best practices to accelerate progress.

“Increasing the number of Americans with college degrees is a critical national need,” said George Mehaffy, AASCU vice president for academic leadership and change. “Earning a college degree changes the trajectory of an individual’s life, affecting both the graduate and their family. But equally important, increasing the number of Americans with degrees improves the economy of the Unites States, makes us more globally competitive, and strengthens our democracy. We are delighted to be participating in this innovative new project, which will provide so many opportunities for all of our AASCU member colleges and universities.” 

FS sites will focus on institutional transformation, including the integration of three key solution areas: (1) Redesigned Planning, Advising and Student Services; (2) Digital Learning and Next Generation Digital Courseware; and (3) Developmental Education Reform and Supports for Learning, while strengthening capacities that enable implementation and integration of the key solutions, including leadership, culture, strategic finance, IT infrastructure, institutional research and data, and policy.

All Frontier Set work focuses on the long-term outcome of significantly increased student completion rates. All Frontier Set participating campuses are committed to three goals:

  1. Making it Work: Accelerate student success gains on their own campus by integrating solutions and strengthening capacities.  
  2. Understanding What Works: Seek to understand how their own campus is transforming itself, by exercising rigorous introspection and transparency.
  3. Sharing What Works: Collaborate and share what the institution is learning with other participating campuses and with the rest of the AASCU member schools.  

The FS teams from each of the six selected member institutions convened with the entire FS Network in San Diego, Calif., on February 1 to launch the four-year project.  

AASCU institutions selected to participate in the Frontier Set project:

College of Staten Island, CUNY
New Jersey City University
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Northern Arizona University
Sam Houston State University (Texas)
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley


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. These are institutions Delivering America’s Promise of Opportunities for All.