February 17, 2011

Accountability for Community Colleges

Passaic County Community College has been selected as one of 40 community colleges nationwide to pilot a new Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA) that is designed to redefine what “success” means for two-year institutions nationwide.

The Voluntary Framework of Accountability is an initiative by community colleges to develop more accurate ways to measure their performance. An accountability framework specifically for community colleges, it will measure institutional effectiveness based on the community college’s own unique student population and multiple services.

Unfortunately, community colleges have for years been held accountable to performance indicators designed for four-year institutions - indicators which are inadequate for understanding community college students.

The U.S. Department of Education defines a "successful" community college student as someone who enrolls as a full-time student and completes an Associate degree within three years. But, since many of our students are not full-time, and are parents and the major wage earner in a family, these life responsibilities ake the three year measure unrealistic.

The VFA represents the first national system to provide accurate data, operational transparency and the ability for colleges to benchmark student progress and completion data against peer institutions.

The VFA is being developed by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) in collaboration with the Association of Community College Trustees and the College Board and with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation for Education.

The pilot colleges include 37 institutions, two statewide systems and one multi-college district in 29 states. Besides PCCC, New Jersey schools in the pilot are Burlington County College (Pemberton, NJ), Hudson County Community College (Jersey City, NJ), and Raritan Valley Community College (Somerville, NJ).

Pending outcomes of the pilot testing, reaction to the VFA among AACC member institutions and future funding, a full-scale roll-out to the nation’s nearly 1,200 community, junior and technical colleges could take place starting in 2012.

The Obama administration and others are focused on greater numbers of student completions and demonstrable measures for how we gauge student success.

More  www.aacc.nche.edu/Resources/aaccprograms/vfa/

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