Community-College Accountability Measure Still Holds Policy-Making Potential

A tool being developed “by community colleges, for community colleges” to measure their effectiveness is still not ready, but its proponents hope wider adoption through its testing phase will give it influence in policy making.

The sector decries existing metrics, particularly the federal Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, known as Ipeds, for making community colleges look bad by not counting many of their students and much of their work. According to Ipeds, only 20 percent of students at community colleges graduate within three years, but that figure excludes part-time students and those who transfer, not to mention students pursuing career and technical education, for example, or a GED.

That’s why the American Association of Community Colleges is designing the new gauge, known as the Voluntary Framework of Accountability, in collaboration with the Association of Community College Trustees and the College Board. After a few years of discussion, some presidents were hopeful at the community-college group’s annual meeting here this week that the tool could help the sector in talks both with the U.S. Department of Education, which is reforming Ipeds, and with Congress, as it prepares to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.

The public accountability that federal and state lawmakers seek is one goal of the framework, known as the VFA. The other is institutional improvement. On both counts, the project’s proponents say, it’s necessary to know actual results for students at community colleges, and this tool will provide that information. <Read more.>

Via Sara Lipka, The Chronicle of Higher Ed.