College Portrait of Undergraduate Education

College Portrait of Undergraduate Education

Resources

Thank you for your interest in the Voluntary System of Accountability College Portrait! (VSA). The information on this page is designed to answer questions from colleges and universities interested in participating in the VSA and to members of the public, students and families, and policy makers looking for additional background on the information included in the College Portrait.

VSA Initiative Information

A New Vision for the VSA: Like higher education, the VSA has changed a lot since 2008; click here to learn about what’s next with our new Vision for 2017!

VSA History. The College Portrait was created by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) in 2007 at a time when increased calls for greater accountability in higher education, emanating largely from the Spellings Commission, made it clear that policymakers and consumers felt information regarding student learning outcomes was difficult to find. The core components of the College Portrait have remained stable, though it is now presented as a common web report and several of the specific data elements have been updated to reflect the evolution of conversations about higher education over the last seven years. Learn more about the history and continued evolution of the VSA and College Portraits here.

VSA Participation Agreement. During Fall 2016, the VSA is in transition to implement our new Vision. We welcome and encourage institutions who are interested in the VSA to complete the sign up process, but please note that the terms of the Participation Agreement are being updated to reflect the new suite of data, data products and tools, and professional development opportunities we will be offering starting in 2017. Institutions will be asked to re-affirm their participation under the new Participation Agreement in late 2016.

Related Initiatives

UCAN. The University & College Accountability Network (U-CAN) is designed to offer prospective students and their families concise, Web-based consumer-friendly information about the nation's private, nonprofit colleges and universities in a common format. It was developed and is maintained by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU).

Voluntary Framework of Accountability. The VFA is the principle accountability framework for community colleges with measures defined to encompass the full breadth of the community college mission and the diversity of students' goals and educational experiences. The VFA was developed and is maintained by the American Association of Community Colleges.

SAM. The Student Achievement Measure (SAM) provides a comprehensive picture of student progress on their path to earning a college degree or certificate. As compared to the limitations of typical graduation rate measures, SAM reports more outcomes for more students. SAM is a collaborative effort of the six national presidential higher education associations and has been endorsed by nine prominent national higher education organizations. Funding for SAM is provided in large part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations with additional support from the Carnegie Corporation, APLU (Association of Public and Land-grant Universities), and AASCU (American Association of State Colleges & Universities).

College Portrait Information

College Portrait At A Glance

College Portraits At A Glance, an interactive tool for users to create one-page customized snapshots of College Portrait data, launched in Fall 2015. The inaugural version of At A Glance features 13 modules with College Portrait data covering student admissions, enrollment, costs and financial aid, success and progress and student experiences, and provides a powerful platform for institutions to tell their story to policy makers, students and families with data. Visitors to the College Portraits website can create a custom At A Glance page for any institution with a published College Portrait either by searching for the institution from the At A Glance start page or by clicking the At A Glance link from the institution’s College Portrait. Users can either select a pre-designed page focused on themes including Costs, Aid, and Debt, Student Outcomes, or Campus Diversity, or build their own page from scratch. Each At A Glance page is shareable as a link or a PDF file, making it easy to create instant handouts to share with campus visitors or external stakeholders or via social media such as Facebook or Twitter.

Excellence in Assessment Designations

The Excellence in Assessment (EIA) program, created in Fall 2015, is a national recognition for institutions that intentionally integrate learning outcomes assessment campus-wide. The EIA designations focus on campus processes and uses of assessment outcomes, rather than on student performance or accomplishment. Building on the foundation of reporting both student learning outcomes assessment results and processes established in the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA) College Portrait, the EIA designation evaluation process is directly and intentionally built from NILOA's Transparency Framework.

Like the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, EIA provides a systematic and nationally recognized evaluation of colleges and universities intended to reveal best practices in campus-wide assessment. The EIA program views campus-level assessment as building up from the work of faculty assessment of student learning, as an integrated component designed to serve as a “tip of the iceberg” indicator for the depth and breadth of student learning happening on our campuses. As increased attention has been paid to campus-level assessment outcomes as an indicator for campus accountability, the pressure has increased on campuses to simply report results to meet external demands. The purpose of the EIA designations is to recognize the work of those campuses that are engaging in the full breadth and depth of vertically and horizontally integrated student learning outcomes assessment.

Future Plans of Bachelor’s Degree Recipients

Each university participating in VSA is required to survey its graduating students during the year or semester prior to graduation to ask the following question: “What will be your primary activity after graduation?” A number of choices are provided and respondents may, at the discretion of the institution, select all that apply or only the one that matches their primary activity. The question focuses on the near-term, not the long-term, thus the answers reflect best students’ thoughts about the time period within their first year after graduation.

VSA Recommended Future Plans of Bachelor’s Degree Recipients Methodology

National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) First-Destination Survey Standards and Protocols. NACE has established these national standards and protocols to guide higher education institutions in collecting and disseminating the vital information regarding the immediate career outcomes of their graduates. Starting in fall 2015, institutions who wish to report future plans of their bachelor’s degree recipients using the NACE standards and protocols will be able to do so. Additional information will be provided to participants about this option in early fall 2015.

Related Resources:

Post-Collegiate Outcomes Initiative. AACC, APLU, and AASCU have collectively developed a strategic framework to guide discussion and the creation of measurement tools for reporting student outcomes after college. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the project partners assembled subject-matter experts and institutional leaders to create a framework and application tools that will enable colleges and universities, policymakers, and the public to better understand and talk about post collegiate outcomes in areas such as economic well-being, ongoing personal development, and social and civic engagement. The development of the framework and the accompanying tools are an important first step toward the creation of common metrics and indicators for use by institutions to report a more comprehensive set of post collegiate outcomes. Measures and metrics developed as the PCO Framework & Toolkit is expanded may be piloted in the VSA College Portrait.

Undergraduate Success & Progress Rate

National Student Clearinghouse StudentTracker. The VSA Undergraduate Success & Progress Rate is built by matching student data submitted by a participating institution with data from the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC). Visit the NSC website to learn more about the Cohort Query within the NSC StudentTracker tool that combines and aggregates the data into the five outcomes categories used by SAM. A results file is returned by NSC to the institution and can be uploaded directly into the College Portrait site to create the chart and detail table. No student level data is uploaded to the College Portrait site.

Success & Progress Rate Methodology. This document outlines the methodology used to calculate the Undergraduate Success & Progress Rate. Although very similar, the Undergraduate Success & Progress Rate results will not match the federal methodology for calculating graduation and retention rates (e.g. IPEDS) nor are they intended to match. Key differences are outlined in this document.

Undergraduate Success & Progress Rate Demonstration. Use this Excel file and data from student cohorts for a preview of the Undergraduate Success & Progress Rate graphs and tables for your institution.

Linkages to SAM. The VSA Undergraduate Success & Progress Rate uses the same methodology and data as the Bachelor’s Model reported on the Student Achievement Measure (SAM) website. VSA members who also participate in SAM can sync their SAM data directly from SAM to their Undergraduate Success & Progress Rate data in the College Portrait.

Student Experiences

College Portrait participants provide a snapshot of student experiences and activities and their perceptions of faculty, staff, and institutional support for students by reporting the results from one of four student engagement surveys. Results are reported within six specified constructs that academic research has shown to be correlated with greater student learning and development: group learning, active learning, experiences with diverse groups of people and ideas, student satisfaction, institution commitment to student learning and success, and student interaction with faculty and staff. Under each of the six constructs, student responses to specific questions are reported; the questions vary across instruments but were selected to represent similar ideas or experiences as closely as possible. Additional information on each of the four approved instruments for reporting Senior Student Experiences on the College Portrait is available below:

College Senior Survey (CSS)

College Student Experiences Questionnaire (CSEQ). The CSEQ closed operations in spring 2014, but as institutions are allowed to report results on the College Portrait up to three years old, some institutions may still provide CSEQ results until 2017.

National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE)

Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) survey (also known as the University of California Undergraduate Experience Survey (UCUES))

VSA Student Learning Outcomes Reporting Requirements

Starting with the 2015-16 College Portrait, the VSA no longer restricts student learning outcomes reporting to specific instruments; instead, the VSA Board approved the adoption of the National Institutes for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) Transparency Framework as the preferred reporting method on the College Portrait. Instead of reporting campus-level student learning outcomes results directly on the College Portrait, institutions will instead provide a link to a page on their institutional websites that provides the information included in the Transparency Framework for institution-level assessment of student learning outcomes.

The Transparency Framework is designed to help institutions communicate their evidence of student accomplishment to external audiences, making it an ideal fit with the purposes of the College Portrait. There are six components to the Transparency Framework that together tell a complete story about learning outcomes assessment on a campus.

  • Student learning outcomes statements
  • Assessment plans
  • Assessment resources
  • Current assessment activities
  • Evidence of student learning
  • Use of student learning evidence

NILOA has examples of institutional Transparency Framework pages available as links from their site.

We recognize that it may take some time for institutions to add all of the Transparency Framework components to their websites, and expect that some institutions will need more time to build out the necessary sections. The expectation, however, is that all institutions will make steady progress in the direction of providing all six components of the Transparency Framework for institution-level assessment of student learning outcomes.

While the Transparency Framework is the preferred method for institutions to communicate their campus-level assessment practices, we recognize that many institutions may already have websites that provide the same information. VSA participants do not have to explicitly redesign their existing public facing assessment web pages if all the components identified in the Transparency Framework are already available. A link to that set of pages on your institutional website will satisfy the reporting requirements for the College Portrait.

The data entry screens for the 2015-16 College Portrait will remain the same, though institutions will only be required to complete their institutional statement and provide a link to their Transparency Framework (or another campus website that more completely describes their campus-level assessment processes). Institutions that do not have a Transparency Framework site are encouraged to complete the data entry for Steps 2-5 for their 2015-16 College Portrait. For institutions that have an existing Transparency Framework site, the link should be entered in Step 1. In the future, only Step 1, the institutional statement (which can be as long as the institution wishes to make it and which can include any links they wish to add) and a mandatory field for a URL to an institution’s Transparency Framework will be required.

Excellence in Assessment The Excellence in Assessment (EIA) program, created to coincide with the adoption of the Transparency Framework by the VSA, is a national recognition for institutions that intentionally integrate learning outcomes assessment campus-wide. The EIA designations focus on campus processes and uses of assessment outcomes, rather than on student performance or accomplishment. Building on the foundation of reporting both student learning outcomes assessment results and processes established in the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA) College Portrait, the EIA designation evaluation process is directly and intentionally built from NILOA's Transparency Framework.

Like the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, EIA provides a systematic and nationally recognized evaluation of colleges and universities intended to reveal best practices in campus-wide assessment. The EIA program views campus-level assessment as building up from the work of faculty assessment of student learning, as an integrated component designed to serve as a “tip of the iceberg” indicator for the depth and breadth of student learning happening on our campuses. As increased attention has been paid to campus-level assessment outcomes as an indicator for campus accountability, the pressure has increased on campuses to simply report results to meet external demands. The purpose of the EIA designations is to recognize the work of those campuses that are engaging in the full breadth and depth of vertically and horizontally integrated student learning outcomes assessment.

The EIA designations are sponsored by the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA), a joint initiative of the American Association of State Colleges & Universities (AASCU) and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), the National Institutes for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), and the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U).