Resource Library

A Study of First Year Experience Programs at Faith-Based Institutions

Study of First Year Experience

by Kristie Neff, Cornerstone University, in partnership with the Acton Institute   November 2015

First Year Experience programs (FYE) are deliberate and comprehensive programs that consist of various components that work to serve students within their first year of college through increasing academic performance, providing transitional assistance, increasing student persistence, helping with transition into college and cultural connection, and creating a sense of commitment to the community.1 Programming can be both academic and non-academic in nature.      

FYE programs are an institutional standard for faith-based colleges and universities. Overall goals of FYE programs focus on retention and acclimation to individual institutions. However, the meaning ascribed to each of these programs is highly variant, highlighting the inconsistency of resources, student demographics, and goals of each institution. The unique purposes and culture accompanying colleges and universities that are religiously-affiliated creates additional programmatic and curricular demands. With FYE programs being a recent phenomenon in Higher Education, paired with a tendency towards institutional siloing, best practices for this niche of FYE programs are reasonably elusive. Below is an initial diagnostic report on faithbased FYE programs. The goal is that, by uncovering and understanding institutional practices within the larger community, collaboration around best practices will emerge.      

Through the generous funding of Acton Institute (Grand Rapids, MI), grant money for research was given May 2015. IRB approval for the initial stage of research was approved June 2015 by the Cornerstone University Institutional Review Board.