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Colleges Take a Look in the Mirror


The Voluntary Institutional Metrics Project, a coalition of 18 institutions of higher learning funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, brings together mostly community colleges and other non-traditional schools in pursuit of the goal of evaluating their performance across five main areas. On Wednesday, the group released a set of performance metrics that include: repayment and default rates on student loans, student progression and completion, cost per degree, employment outcomes for graduates, and student learning outcomes.

The impetus for this framework came from a feeling among representatives of these institutions that existing measures were unfair to them. Federal scorecards often compared elite institutions on the same plane as two-year colleges and those serving poorer and disadvantaged students. InsideHigherEd reports:

To even the playing field, the metric used here includes a predicted range where an institution’s loan repayment and default rates should fall. Variables that influence that range include the proportion of students eligible for Pell Grants and the percentage who receive federal loans, as well as other publicly available data points.

Each institution is rated against its predicted range on the dashboards, which is a more nuanced and informed way of holding them accountable, according to the report. Federal gainful employment regulations, for example, proposed uniform thresholds for all institutions (although many critics said those thresholds were too low).

These new metrics are the latest in a trend of groups looking for alternatives to traditional measurements. The Obama administration has released its own college scorecard. The National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and the American Association of Community Colleges have all released their own voluntary accountability frameworks in recent years.

In light of soaring tuition prices and underemployment for graduates, it’s good to see that colleges are finally starting to take their responsibility to students and their families seriously.

[College quad image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • Jim Breed

    I notice there is no metric for overhead as a percentage of total cost. That is the first thing I thought to look for. Adjunct salaries have not risen, yet tuition has. Why? And, why is this not a concern?

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