Skip Navigation
Projects & Initiatives

Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA)

The Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA) is a robust, interactive, and user-friendly platform for public colleges and universities to compare and analyze key performance metrics across institutions. The VSA, which is a subscription program open to four-year public institutions, allows users to build custom analytical and graphical reports with the SAS-Visual Analytics platform in just minutes and eliminates the need to spend days searching, downloading, integrating, and analyzing data.


VSA About PageDesigned by institutions for institutions, the VSA brings flexibility to campus users and supports the use of data in strategic planning and decision making.  The platform offers more than 25 benchmarking reports based on a custom national dataset containing more than 350 variables from roughly 4,200 institutions. Data include: enrollment, cost of attendance, graduation rate, R&D expenditures, financial aid, admissions, student-faculty ratio, and much more.

Each interactive report offers a national profile of a population of institutions defined by the subscriber.  In addition, users may benchmark their institution against a custom comparison group.  All reports can be downloaded and printed.  Later this summer, the VSA will add trend reports on the current metrics.  In the fall, eight years of merged, cleaned, and integrated data will be posted for subscribers to download.

VSA subscribers gain:

  • Exclusive access to VSA Analytics – a suite of reports offering dynamic visualizations on more than two dozen performance indicators. Subscribers can create custom comparison groups and make side-by-side comparisons with peer institutions. All members of the campus community receive unlimited access to the site.
  • Exclusive access to the VSA National Dataset – National data sources have been compiled, cleaned, and merged into an institution-level dataset for analysis and reporting on more than 4,200 institutions. Sources include: The National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), the National Science Foundation’s Higher Education Research & Development survey expenditures; the Student Achievement Measure (SAM), and the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard.
  • Webinars and educational materials on how to use national data to support institutional and strategic planning.
  • The Benefits of the VSA: For Institutions, By Institutions
    • The VSA allows institutions to create charts on 25 key metrics using national data in minutes.  Institutions no longer have to search, download, integrate, and analyze the data before creating data visualizations. These datasets will be updated as soon as new data are available.
    • Institutions gain access to the SAS-Visual Analytics platform and the integrated national dataset delivering to graphical and analytical capabilities fora small annual subscription fee.
    • The VSA uses standard national definitions and standard national sources for all metrics so to allow for apples to apples comparisons.
    • As a not-for-profit initiative, this VSA’s mission is to serve the data and analytical needs of higher education institutions. The content is member-driven. These reports will grow and evolve based on user feedback. VSA Analytics is “for institutions by institutions.”
    • In the next 3 months, the VSA will deliver trend reports on these metrics. In the next 6 months, the VSA will offer 8 years of merged, cleaned, and integrated data for subscribers to download.

The VSA was originally created in 2007 through a partnership between the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and was intended to serve as an external-facing reporting system known as the College Portrait. In 2018, the VSA transitioned to an internally-focused platform to support and enhance the capacity of public colleges and universities to use data to make informed decisions that improve institutional outcomes.

For more information on the VSA program and participation guidelines, visit the VSA website at You may also contact

Related Projects & Initiatives

Members in the Spotlight