What is AACU and how does AACU help families of college-bound students?In 2001 and 2002, the presidents of the accredited Adventist colleges and universities in North America faced a pivotal choice to raise the bar in Adventist education through one of two avenues: competition or collaboration.
With much thought and prayer, the spirit of collaboration led to the creation of the Association of Adventist Colleges and Universities (AACU). While each college continues its independent leadership and recruitment efforts, drawing together to improve Adventist higher education is the key focus of AACU.
Awareness research led to national campaign
AACU facilitated nationwide focus groups and survey research among Adventist students and parents, which showed that Adventist families whose children did not attend an Adventist high school had very little awareness of what Adventist colleges had to offer.
A national communication and awareness building campaign was launched for families whose children attend public high schools, private high schools and home schools. AACU also established a central web site, www.AdventistColleges.org , which includes information about admissions requirements, programs offered and a common online application for all the colleges.
"AACU's efforts have made it easier for thousands of Adventist families to learn about and connect with Adventist higher education," said Rob Weaver, AACU's vice president for marketing. "With nearly 500 different programs of study, Adventist colleges and universities have options for most Adventist young people."
The research also showed that Adventist colleges have distinct values and opportunities that aren't typically found at a public college or large university.
First, Adventist colleges offer students the faith factor: the chance to share their spiritual journey with friends, peers and mentors who believe - and reinforce - a common Christian faith.
Second, students who attend an Adventist college will make lifelong friendships, not only with fellow classmates, but also with professors.
Third, Adventist colleges offer students an excellent way to prepare for vocational and career success because of the personal attention offered by professors.
According to Weaver, "Some families think smaller class sizes and personal interaction with a professor, instead of a graduate assistant, means the class might be dumbed down. On the contrary! It means the professor will get to know the student and understand his potential and be able to challenge, encourage and mentor him to grow and develop in ways that are unusual in a large public university setting."
In addition to helping families learn more about Adventist higher education, AACU has helped the colleges become less competitive and more cooperative.
"AACU has helped the colleges build stronger relationships with each other and to recognize that not every Adventist campus is a perfect fit for each student," Weaver said. "As a result, there is less pitting of the schools against each other than 10 years ago and more awareness of the strengths and unique personality of each college."
College experiences research in progress
AACU is currently sponsoring a research project along with the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists to learn more about the college experiences of students who graduated from Adventist colleges and universities and Adventists who graduated from other public or private colleges or universities. The survey asks respondents to rate their satisfaction with their college experience on a variety of critiera, including spiritual, social and academic experiences while in college. The results will help the leaders of the North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist church improve the academic, spiritual and social experiences of students attending both Adventist colleges and public or other private colleges and universities. Results of the research are expected to be available in 2013.
The 13 accredited colleges and universities who make up the association enroll, collectively, nearly 25,000 undergraduate and graduate students each year throughout the United States and Canada.
Colleges belonging to AACU are: