• Re-Imaging the First Year of College Project Earns Additional Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Funding, Plans for 2018

    The Re-Imaging the First Year of College (RFY) project has completely changed the way we think about preparing our students, and we’re not done yet! Next year—2018—will mark the final year of the RFY project. We’re proud to announce that on Oct. 13, 2017, AASCU received an additional $1,116,764 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to maximize the impact of this important work, and we’re excited to talk about what lies ahead for the program.

    During the first two years of the RFY project, our 44 participating member campuses joined together in a learning community to review and share best practices, programs and implementation strategies. This helped them each develop a tailored campus action plan, which aims to dramatically enhance the first year of college experience, as demonstrated in student retention and completion rates, particularly for low-income students, first generation college students and students of color.

    The campus actions plans all use a four-pronged approach that focuses on institutional intentionality, curriculum, students and faculty. Each campus implemented these plans in the beginning of the fall 2016 semester, and in the summer of 2017, representatives from all of the campus teams gathered at the Academic Affairs Summer Meeting in Baltimore, Md., to share what they had learned. An in-depth analysis completed on each campus, while highlighting challenges unique to particular institutions, also brought forth striking similarities of the work that needed to be done across the country.  

    While each campus reported significant progress in three of the focus areas, only 43 percent of institutions were able to implement new faculty development strategies. This fall, the AASCU student success staff proposed and was approved for additional funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to extend proven, innovative approaches into the first year classroom through a significant investment in faculty. 

    In 2018, as all 44 RFY campuses are continuing to implement their campus action plans, the additional funds from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will allow AASCU to support up to 20 campuses in faculty development activities. Ten faculty members on each selected campus will receive training and financial resources to incorporate high-impact practices into their first year course and to provide a mechanism to assess their effect on student success indicators.

    This is just part of what our student success team has planned for 2018. We’ll also be undertaking a comprehensive review of the guided pathways programs implemented by four-year institutions, analyzing how these align with the research completed by Public Agenda and the Community College Research Center in the two-year sector. This will help us develop a campus pathways tool for comprehensive universities hoping to incorporate guided pathways into their designs for student success.  

    Additionally, we will assist campuses interested in piloting a new tool that helps universities assess their capacity for institutional change. We will also develop a logic model to gather and disseminate the most promising practices; effective strategies for overcoming roadblocks; and lessons learned from both of our signature initiatives—RFY and Frontier Set

    Ultimately, we hope all this important work will create a model for how other AASCU institutions can accelerate their completion rates and other indicators of student success. We look forward to another productive year, and we hope you do too!