What Does It Mean to Be a LEAP Institution?

Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) is a national initiative begun in 2005 which champions the importance of a 21st-century liberal education—for individual students, and for a nation dependent on economic creativity and democratic vitality. Helping institutions reach their objectives for degree attainment, workforce preparation, and student success through access to high-quality liberal education for all students is a key goal of the LEAP initiative.

The LEAP initiative advances a vision for higher education centered on essential learning outcomes for all students which are achieved through high-impact practices, grounded in the principles of inclusive excellence, and bolstered by authentic assessment of student learning.

Overarching Commitments of LEAP Institutions

  • Institutional leaders engage, affirm, and use the LEAP vision for student learning as a framework for fostering educational achievement, civic engagement, and global responsibility.
  • The institutions adopt their own version of the LEAP essential learning outcomes and make them the focus for student success, faculty work, educational designs, assessment, and accountability.
  • The institutions engage in reform and assessment of undergraduate education, keyed to LEAP, in which faculty play a strategic leading role.

What AAC&U Provides in Partnership with LEAP Institutions

  • A national voice for systems, states, regions, and individual institutions within the LEAP campaign and in collaboration with other systemic change initiatives;
  • Leadership roles and planning for members of the Campus Action Network—so that institutional leaders can network with each other and catalyze transformative change on campus and in transfer contexts;
  • Advocacy for faculty leadership and deep engagement both on campus and across institutions and systems to advance liberal education in both general education and the major;
  • Assistance with the development of environments within and across institutions that are conducive to positive educational reform focused on student learning, especially in an economy of scarcity;
  • Practical advice, tools, and technical assistance to advance efforts to use LEAP frameworks in campus action and advocacy;
  • A convening and networking platform through AAC&U’s architecture of conferences, publications, and resources and a leverage point for partnerships with other institutions;
  • Communications capacity building for campus leaders to help in “making the case” within state, regional, and institutional contexts;
  • A continuing commitment to seek external grant funding to support the efforts of LEAP institutions to achieve systemic educational reform and AAC&U’s role as a catalyst, convener, and leader for this work.

Desirable Outcomes for LEAP Institutions

A LEAP institution will do several of the following:

  • Align learning outcomes consistent with the LEAP vision with intentional change in key curricular areas, such as general education and the departments, and also with student advising, faculty development, student success initiatives, and where relevant, inter-institutional alignment efforts1;
  • Foster high-impact practices for all students, and/or connect existing high-impact practices with student learning outcomes and student success initiatives;
  • Develop authentic assessment frameworks and practices (using VALUE rubrics, Degree Qualification Profile schema, or other structures)—keyed to student learning outcomes—that elicit and document learning through students’ own work;
  • Develop strategies to advocate for the essential learning outcomes and principles of excellence of liberal education both within and beyond individual institutions;
  • Advance dialogues with key stakeholders—including trustees, business leaders, K-12 educators, policymakers, civic leaders, and elected officials—about the role of liberal education and the essential learning outcomes in advancing goals for economic and civic vitality and for school reform;
  • Align the LEAP vision for undergraduate education to underserved student achievement using disaggregated student success and learning data to create an evidence-based feedback loop on the effectiveness and equity of institutional practices;
  • Integrate primary diversity, equity, and student success initiatives with LEAP;
  • Communicate to students the nature and goals of liberal education;
  • When possible, share their LEAP-related work at AAC&U conferences.

Campus Action Network Institutions

As of August 2014, 340 institutions are part of the LEAP Campus Action Network (CAN), which provides resources and events to help institutions strengthen their reform efforts related to the LEAP vision and outcomes, in addition to other benefits. For more information, please see www.aacu.org/leap/can or contact Bethany Zecher Sutton.

Campus Action Network liaisons are in place at individual institutions to receive and share AAC&U resources with faculty and staff, to publicize the key aspects and goals of the LEAP initiative, and to help coordinate educational improvement efforts on their campuses.


1. Campuses committed to LEAP goals will find the DQP useful for aligning their programs with those goals, especially in terms of helping students practice and demonstrate the expected learning outcomes