Press Release

AAC&U Announces Five-Year Strategic Plan to Reclaim Higher Education’s Civic Mission of Educating for Democracy
AAC&U’s goals for 2018–22 reaffirm a commitment to advancing quality and equity in undergraduate education and promoting the value of a liberal education as integral to preparing students for work, life, and global citizenship

Washington, DC—January 25, 2018—The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) released today its 201822 strategic plan outlining goals and aspirations that will guide the association’s work over the next five years. The plan, We ASPIRE: Advancing Student Performance through Integration, Research, and Excellence, was presented at AAC&U’s Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

We ASPIRE reclaims higher education’s civic mission of educating for democracy and reaffirms a commitment to demonstrating and promoting the value of liberal education in the face of growing mistrust and negative public perception of higher education.

AAC&U President Lynn Pasquerella outlined the association’s broader mission and goals in her address to over 2,000 attendees from across higher education at AAC&U’s 2018 Annual Meeting, “Can Higher Education Recapture the Elusive American Dream?”

“Guided by its mission, over the next five years, AAC&U will strive to destabilize the reproduction of social inequality in the academy and champion success for every student across all types of institutions,” Pasquerella said. “The plan serves as a collective call to action for those of us who believe that higher education is inextricably linked to our nation’s historic mission of educating for democracy—work that seems more urgent than ever, given the prevailing rhetoric, which decouples higher education from the American Dream.”

By making quality and equity the foundations for excellence in undergraduate education, AAC&U will focus its efforts on extending the advantages of a liberal education to all students to prepare them for work, life, and citizenship in national, local, and global contexts.

“Democracy cannot flourish in a nation divided into haves and have-nots, and education plays a critical role in improving social mobility, carrying the potential to undermine the perpetuation of intergenerational inequality,” Pasquerella said. “If we are to make strides toward an equity-minded approach to higher education, we need to reject, once and for all, a ‘deficit perspective’ that focuses on what students are missing and instead offer evidence-based interventions through the targeting of cognitive, noncognitive, and psychosocial factors showcasing students’ assets. These strategies must span the curricular and cocurricular and extend throughout the college experience.”

Developed through a comprehensive, integrative planning process that engaged a wide range of stakeholders, members, and constituents, We ASPIRE identifies four strategic goals to guide AAC&U’s work over the next five years:

  • Champion faculty-engaged, evidence-based, sustainable models and strategies for promoting quality in undergraduate education
  • Advance equity across higher education in service to academic excellence and social justice
  • Lead institutions and communities in articulating and demonstrating the value of liberal education for work, life, global citizenship, and democracy
  • Catalyze reform in higher education to emphasize discovery and innovation as fundamental aspects of a liberal education

For more information about AAC&U’s 2018–22 strategic plan, We ASPIRE, visit

Keep up with events and conversations from AAC&U’s 2018 Annual Meeting on Twitter by following @AACU and #aacu18.   

About AAC&U

AAC&U is the leading national association dedicated to advancing the vitality and public standing of liberal education by making quality and equity the foundations for excellence in undergraduate education in service to democracy. Its members are committed to extending the advantages of a liberal education to all students, regardless of academic specialization or intended career. Founded in 1915, AAC&U now comprises 1,400 member institutions—including accredited public and private colleges, community colleges, research universities, and comprehensive universities of every type and size.

AAC&U functions as a catalyst and facilitator, forging links among presidents, administrators, faculty, and staff engaged in institutional and curricular planning. Through a broad range of activities, AAC&U reinforces the collective commitment to liberal education at the national, local, and global levels. Its high-quality programs, publications, research, meetings, institutes, public outreach efforts, and campus-based projects help individual institutions ensure that the quality of student learning is central to their work as they evolve to meet new economic and social challenges. Information about AAC&U can be found at

This is a sponsored message and does not necessarily represent the views of the Education Writers Association, its board of directors, or its members. Want to see your release on the EWA site? Promote it with EWA.