The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) is an organization of state-supported colleges and universities that offer degree programs leading to bachelor's, master's or doctoral degrees. AASCU grew out of the Association of Teacher Education Institutions that had been organized in 1951 to serve public comprehensive institutions. Most of the original member institutions began as single purpose institutions, most commonly normal schools.
Members of AASCU work to extend higher education to all citizens, including those who have been traditionally underrepresented on college campuses. By delivering America’s promise by being stewards of education, these institutions fulfill the expectations of a public university by working for the public good through education and engagement, thereby improving the lives of people in their community, their region and their state. The American Association of State Colleges and Universities represents nearly 420 public colleges, universities and systems of higher education throughout the United States and its territories.
AASCU has a fivefold purpose, as follows:
- To promote appreciation and support for public higher education and the distinctive contributions of member colleges and universities.
- "To support member institutions in their mission to prepare students who can be demonstrably competitive and effective in an economy and a society that requires global literacy."
- To analyze public policy, and to advocate for member institutions and the students they serve.
- To provide policy leadership and program support to strengthen academic quality, promote access and inclusion, and facilitate educational innovation.
- To create professional development opportunities for institutional leaders.
Public policy agenda
AASCU's public policy agenda focuses on promoting four general principles, including the following:
- Affordability in which every qualified student—regardless of financial background—should be able to afford higher education.
- Access whereby all students who want to should have the opportunity to pursue a college education regardless of their demographic backgrounds.
- Accountability regarding which as stewards of the public's resources, public colleges and universities should communicate transparently and openly with the public regarding the use of their investment.
- Competitiveness in which public institutions of higher education must prepare students to contribute to the country’s global, economic competitiveness in a modern, knowledge-based economy.
In 1998, AASCU's African American presidents came together to start the Millennium Leadership Initiative (MLI) — a program that prepares individuals traditionally underrepresented in the highest ranks of higher education for future leadership roles, particularly college and university presidencies. MLI involves both a four-day intensive program and a yearlong partnership between a protégé and a mentor, who is a current or former president or chancellor. MLI grooms the protégés for leadership by helping them to develop the skills, gain a philosophical overview, and build a network necessary to advance to the presidency.
In 2003, AASCU partnered with The New York Times to found the American Democracy Project (ADP). With over 220 member institutions, ADP is a multi-campus initiative focused on higher education’s role in preparing graduates to become the next generation of informed, engaged citizens who are committed to being active, involved members of their communities. ADP has furthered this goal through five national and 11 regional meetings, in addition to a national assessment project, campus audits, speaker series, and recognition and award series. Further, it has sponsored specific days of action and reflection, and several campus initiatives, including voter registration and education, and curriculum revision and projects. To promote civic education and awareness, ADP has also sponsored the Civic Engagement in Action Series.
In 2006, AASCU and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC) began joint development of a Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA) for public 4-year colleges and universities. This project is a response to the call by the Spellings Commission for increased accountability in higher education. Following a national call for nominations, more than 90 people were appointed by the presidents of AASCU and NASULGC to work on this project. More information about VSA is available on the AASCU website. An important feature of this project is a high transparency design. Interested parties are invited to comment on the work of VSA while it is in progress. Forums have been established to facilitate this design.
In 2010, AASCU launched First Generations Voices. First Generation Voices is a multimedia project highlighting the stories of first generation college students at AASCU member campuses. The stories, which can be submitted as audio, video or written narratives, are featured on the AASCU website, along with biographical information about the students and their institutions.
In 2013, AASCU President Howard voiced support for comprehensive immigration reform. She has stated support for the Pass the Dream Act, for enhancing H1-B Visas, and for streamlining green cards. She stated that all of these actions will support students in America who are undocumented, and will help maintain American competitiveness, as well as keeping "talent...at home."
- Public Purpose: AASCU's quarterly magazine.
- Policy Matters: A policy brief series that provides concise analysis of issues affecting public higher education.
- Perspectives: Occasional papers that explore current higher education issues in an in-depth manner.
- Strategic plan: Governing ideas, American Association of State Colleges and Universities, Washington, DC, 2014, Retrieved 16 February 2014.
- President to presidents 2011: The AASCU edge, AASCU, Washington, DC: AASCU, February 2012, Koester, J., Retrieved 17 February 2014.
- List of AASCU Member Institutions, AASCU, Washington, DC: AASCU, 2014, Retrieved 18 February 2014.
- AASCU study: State colleges and universities positively impact local communities, Salisbury University, Salisbury, MD: Salisbury University, 25 May 2011, Retrieved 18 February 2014.
- 2013 Public policy agenda, AASCU, Washington, DC: AASCU, 2013, Retrieved 18 February 2014.
- Policy matters: Update on the federal maintenance of effort provision: Reinforcing the state role in public higher education financing, AASCU, Washington, DC: AASCU, July 2012, Harnisch, T.L., Retrieved 18 February 2014.
- Millennium leadership institute, AASCU, Washington, DC: AASCU, 2011, Retrieved 18 February 2014.
- American democracy project: About ADP, AASCU, Washington, DC: AASCU, 2014, Retrieved 18 February 2014.
- Voluntary system of accountability, Voluntary System of Accountability, 2011, Retrieved 17 February 2014.
- Secretary Spellings announces new commission on the future of higher education, ED.gov - U.S. Department of Education, Washington, DC, 19 September 2005, Babyak, S. & Glickman, J., Retrieved 17 February 2014.
- First generation voices: Share your stories, AASCU, Washington, DC: AASCU, 2014, Retrieved 18 February 2014.
- Why comprehensive immigration reform is a must for higher ed, Huffington Post, 11 April 2013, Howard, M., Retrieved 29 January 2014.