By Karl Terry, PNT Managing Editor
It’s not exactly No Child Left Behind, but it will provide an accountability report card for the nation’s colleges.
Eastern New Mexico University has joined the other four-year universities and colleges in the state in signing on to the Voluntary System of Accountability, a national initiative that aims to make reporting data from colleges and universities more meaningful to students and their parents, according to a press release from the New Mexico Higher Education Department.
Schools will compile a five-page document that includes enrollment, a student body profile, information on cost of attendance, financial aid, undergraduate admissions requirements, degrees and areas of study and freshman retention and graduation rates. Also included will be a faculty/student ratio, student housing information, campus safety statistics and a section on future campus plans.
The data for each of those sections is primarily comprised of data already on hand, but is standardized so that it can be compared to other institutions, according to Patrice Caldwell, director of planning and analysis at ENMU.
“Because it will be national and the data will be comparative it will be a good thing,” ENMU President Steven Gamble said. “This is going to be a good thing for the public.”
New Mexico became the first state in the nation this week to have all of its four-year institutions adopt the voluntary system, which was developed by the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.
The HED and university presidents collaborated with the national organizations to adopt the initiative.
George Mehaffy, vice president of the AASCU and a former vice president at ENMU, said the system will provide a tool to examine cost, effectiveness, engagement and learning outcomes. He said the design of the system lays out concerns and challenges and addresses how higher education officials will respond.
From the financial perspective, the newly-adopted system will also allow universities to correlate funding and education, Mehaffy said.
“As the cost of higher education goes up, the questions about our effectiveness rise sharply,” Mehaffy said. “The Voluntary System of Accountability provides justification to policymakers and the public.”
“By providing a user-friendly template for reporting institutional data, VSA provides ENMU with an effective way to report student success to its stakeholders,” Caldwell said. “This kind of transparent accountability is important for ENMU. The university wants to be accountable to its students and community. One way to do this is by providing information that is readily available, easy to read, collected in one location, and which can be compared with data from other universities.”
Once data is compiled it will be posted prominently on ENMU’s Web site, according to Caldwell as well as on the VSA Web site.
Caldwell said no date for posting “College Portrait” has been set, but because the data is already reported she anticipates it will be ready soon.