Community colleges across the country have long complained that there is not a good way to measure the success or failure of their institutions but the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) thinks it may be close. AACC Associate Vice President for research Kent Phillippe says most of the tools used to evaluate institutes of higher education look at graduation rates for full-time students over a period if time but he says earning a degree is only the tip of the iceberg at a community college. “For many community colleges students may come in for a short term certificate degree, they may come in for some workforce training and not even intending to get a degree, they may come and do some educational experience at a community college and then transfer to a four-year institution,” says Phillippe.
The Community College of Allegheny County is among those trying to help build what is known as the “Voluntary Framework of Accountability.” (VFA) CCAC President Alex Johnson says, “CCAC is very pleased to be among the pioneering institutions to help develop this important framework. The VFA is a natural compliment to our ongoing efforts to improve student success.”
Phillippe says the VFA will look at variety of measurements, “how many students that started transfer, we are also going to try to look at career and technical education students and see what happens to them after they leave to see if there has been a wage gain, did the college provide them career technical education experiences that are valuable in the market place.”
Thirty-seven institutions will spend the next few months evaluating the tool to see if they agree that it measures everything that is important and to make sure they can provide the AACC with the needed data. Phillippe says the hope is to have the VFA finalized by August. Phase three will look to build a system to collect and display the data. “We need to make sure this is something that our colleges would be willing to voluntarily participate in because it does not make sense to build something if our colleges don’t want to do it,” says Phillippe.