ERIC Number: EJ1041379
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2014
Reference Count: N/A
Lessons from the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA): The Intersection of Collective Action & Public Policy
Keller, Christine M.
Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, v46 n5 p23-29 2014
Over the past decade, the federal investment in higher education has grown, the public demand for a postsecondary degree has risen, and skepticism about the value and meaning of the degree has increased. This confluence has prompted a more intense federal interest in having clear and comparable information about colleges and universities available for policymakers and the general population. Public universities in particular are under pressure to respond to this demand, given those institutions' important role in providing broad, affordable access to higher education for a large proportion of the US population. While public universities have long-standing commitments to institution-specific accountability and transparency, federal efforts to provide the public with information about higher education routinely feature rigid mandates and a one-size-fits-all approach that raises understandable concerns. This article asks and answers how public institutions can appropriately respond to the external demands for simple, standardized information about student and institutional outcomes while reflecting the variety of the nation's public institutions and the diversity of the students who attend them. In 2007, a group of public universities banded together, under the guidance of the Association of Public and Landgrant Universities (APLU) and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), to develop a system that would satisfy the desire for more comparable information but at the same time represent the diversity of institutional missions. The result was the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA). The VSA provides important lessons for the higher education community and federal policymakers on how to respond to demands for simple, comparable data within a complex, diverse system. The Four key lessons provided by the VSA described and outlined in this article are: (1) Build a foundation of trustworthy data; (2) Report meaningful, targeted information; (3) Educate users on key metrics; and (4) Work toward collective, integrated action.
Descriptors: Higher Education, Accountability, College Outcomes Assessment, Information Dissemination, Disclosure, Public Colleges, Outcomes of Education, Institutional Mission, Data, Measures (Individuals), Standardized Tests, Program Effectiveness, Outreach Programs, Credibility, Academic Achievement, Achievement Rating, Web Sites
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: Policymakers; Community
Authoring Institution: N/A