A Question Of Accountability

Career College Central summary:

  • The need for increased accountability in higher education — and, specifically, the nation’s community colleges — is something most educators can agree on. The challenge has, and continues to be, finding a system of metrics that meets the unique needs of two-year institutions versus their four-year counterparts.
  • Case in point: Last summer, President Barack Obama unveiled the Postsecondary Institution Ratings System (PIRS), a benchmarking system that aims to rate two- and four-year colleges on a range of factors, from average tuition to number of low-income students enrolled to graduation rates to student loan debt, among other elements. The system, which the administration hopes to implement by the 2015 academic year, could impact how the federal government divvies up federal funding for higher education.
  • Obama wants to tie federal aid to college performanceDespite a broad push for improved accountability, the program came under immediate fire from several community college advocates who said it would be wrong to hold the nation’s two-year and four-year colleges to the same standards, essentially calling it unfair, an apples-to-oranges comparison. Community colleges have a different makeup than four-year colleges and universities, according to the system’s critics. And students’ academic goals are also often wildly different.
  • Rather, a better approach might already exist, says the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and other two-year education advocates. The Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA) is a metrics and benchmarking system developed by community college leaders for community colleges. Proponents say the VFA more accurately portrays the progress of diverse student populations, including full- and part-time students, who strive to attain degrees, earn credits in preparation for transferring to other institutions, or gain new professional skills while enrolled at the nation’s two-year colleges.

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