Re-Imagining the First Year of College

A coalition that worked together for three years redesigning the first year of college to create sustainable change for student success. 

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RFY was a 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 Strada Education Foundation, AASCU created a coalition to working 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.

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 recognized 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 inspired 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.

Radical Reimagining for Student Success in Higher Education

Radical Reimagining for Student Success in Higher Education is a book based on the work done in AASCU’s Re-Imagining the First Year Initiative.

Learn more and purchase book.


  • 44 AASCU Member Institutions 
Puerto Rico
U.S. Virgin Islands

    Program Goals

    • Improve the quality of learning and student experience 
    • Increase retention rates 
    • Improve student success 
    • Substantively and sustainably alter the first-year experience for students at participating AASCU institutions 

    I want our work to be a beacon for guiding the transformation of undergraduate experience in all of American higher educationWe can and must create institutions where students of all kinds and from all circumstances will arrive to find an environment that honors students for their strengths, not fails them for their weaknesses; institutions that are deeply committed to guided learning, active engagement, and a true spirit of inquiry. 

    Remarks from the 2016 RFY Launch.

    George L. Mehaffy

    Former Vice President of Academic Leadership and Change

    “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. 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.”

    Muriel Howard

    Former President

    RFY Partners

    Questions about the RFY? Ask us. 

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