Yes, Please! Vital Freshmen Retention and Success Initiative from AASCU

AASCU post - stairs
Photo Credit: Son of Groucho

It’s a fist-pump of a headline: “Fixing A Broken Freshman Year: What An Overhaul Might Look Like, a higher ed piece by Byrd Pinkerton for NPR.

If you’ve been following our higher ed posts over the last year, you’ve seen certain themes pop up time and again: the prospective student population is undergoing significant shifts. Students will need more and more support to get to graduation. Colleges and universities have to get in front of the challenges they face around student retention and success … now.

It was thrilling to see that 44 state colleges and universities are doing just that, in the form of revisiting and restructuring freshman-year programs.

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) is organizing this effort, grounded in Re-Imagining the First Year of College, a three-year project. The goal? “Ensuring success for all students, particularly those who have historically been underserved by higher education: low income, first generation, and students of color.”

Yes. Yes. Yes. Freshman year, full of so much hope and potential for students, is also the most overwhelming, confusing and vulnerable. For those outside of the traditional student population, this is even more heightened. The AASCU program will look at a range of solutions to address freshman year challenges.

Broadly, Pinkerton sums up the idea: “to combine student advising with bigger, institution-wide changes to the curriculum, the administration and the faculty, all in the hopes of keeping students in school through graduation.” In addition to revamped curricula, things like closer collaboration between faculty and freshmen and a renewed focus on data-informed decision-making are part of the plan.

Individually, the schools will be able to adapt and test specific changes to see what works in the context of their institution and their students’ needs. They’re building a community to learn from each other and leverage extensive support and resources from AASCU.

Tackling such a complex, unwieldy challenge will take many years and unwavering commitment. For these 44 institutions, it’s a smart and encouraging start.

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