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UC a National Presence in Designing Accountability System for Higher Education

UC administrators play key roles in creating a Voluntary System of Accountability that will help students make educated decisions when it comes to choosing the right college.

Date: 3/24/2008
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
UC ingot The University of Cincinnati is taking part in designing a new initiative to demonstrate accountability in education and to create a better understanding of the responsibilities of four-year public colleges and universities. Two national associations, the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC), of which UC President Nancy Zimpher is an immediate past-chair of the board of directors, and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) – both dedicated to building on the excellence of public colleges and universities – are leading this nationwide initiative to create a “Voluntary System of Accountability” (VSA).

In a nutshell, the VSA creates a common reporting system for colleges and universities so that students, prospective students, parents, community leaders, lawmakers, faculty and staff members and the general public can compare the undergraduate college experience with other public institutions. More than 80 higher education leaders from 70 colleges and universities contributed to the development of the VSA and the reporting system.

The reporting system creates a college portrait that allows comparisons for

  • Consumer Information – This includes tuition, degree programs offered, graduation rates and student characteristics.
  • Student Experiences and Perceptions – Described as providing a snapshot of student experiences and activities as well as student perceptions of their college or university.
  • Student Learning Outcomes – Testing that compares the skills freshmen have as they enter the university with skills they acquire as they achieve senior status and graduation, a demonstration of the “value-added” impact of a higher education.

The creation of the VSA was led by a 12-member presidential advisory committee, as well as six working groups: the Campus Student Engagement Task Force, the Core Educational Outcomes Task Force, the Learning Outcomes Work Group, the Student Growth Work Group and the Student and Family Information Task Force.

Wayne Hall

Wayne Hall, UC vice provost for faculty development, served on the Core Educational Outcomes Task Force, which examined instruments for measuring different learning outcomes and also considered how to evaluate the results, including measures of critical thinking and written communication.

In addition, the VSA also explores student development that’s not necessarily a part of the college classroom, but rather a result of the student’s collegiate experience.

Mitchel D. Livingston

Mitchel D. Livingston, UC vice president for Student Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer, was one of 10 members to serve on the VSA Student Growth Work Group. “We examined the other domains of development, such as moral reasoning, interpersonal skills, leadership ability and civic engagement,” says Livingston.

Now that the design for the VSA has taken shape, Livingston is one of eight members to serve on a national oversight board for the VSA. “The oversight board will monitor our success with the design of the initiative. For example, we’ll be examining how user-friendly it is, and if it’s serving its intended purpose in being helpful to all of the populations that universities report to and serve. We’ll be examining the governing issues of the VSA, how it’s implemented and how effective it is.”

Livingston says the VSA can be adopted by public, four-year colleges and universities that are members of NASULGC and AASCU. The VSA is now under consideration to be adopted by the state of Ohio for all of Ohio’s four-year public colleges and universities. “This is likely one of the most significant things that has happened in higher education in the last 30 years,” Livingston says.

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