Public Universities Seek to Redesign First-Year Experience

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The American Association of State Colleges and Universities this week announced a project to work with 44 of its member institutions to substantially change students’ experience during their first year of college. The project is aimed at improving college completion rates, with a particular eye at helping low-income and…

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities this week announced a project to work with 44 of its member institutions to substantially change students' experience during their first year of college. The project is aimed at improving college completion rates, with a particular eye at helping low-income and first-generation college students, as well as members of minority groups. The public university group said the work would feature several proven methods of improving student retention and success.

"We know a lot of things that work," said George Mehaffy, the association's vice president for academic leadership and change. "The logical place to start was the first year."

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and USA Funds are contributing funds to the project. The work will include a focus on "institutional intentionality," Mehaffy said, such as through changes to the administrative structure and budgeting process of participating colleges. It also will include elements of curriculum redesign and changes to the roles of faculty members, staff and students.

One likely outcome, said Mehaffy, would be degree maps and narrower, more defined pathways for students to get to graduation.

"There are too many choices for students," he said, which can be "paralyzing."


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