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Public College & University Associations Unveil Strategic Framework to Measure Post-Collegiate Outcomes

AACC, AASCU, & APLU Host Symposium: “Beyond a Job: Framing the Value of Higher Education”

The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), in partnership with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) today unveiled their strategic framework to guide the discussion and creation of measurement tools for reporting student outcomes after college. The three associations, whose member institutions educate nearly three-quarters of all post-secondary students in the country, detailed their Post-Collegiate Outcomes (PCO) Initiative framework at a symposium entitled, ‘Beyond a Job: Framing the Value of Higher Education.’

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 broaden the conversation 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 step toward the creation of common metrics and indicators for use by institutions to report a more comprehensive set of post-collegiate outcomes.

“From greater workforce productivity and higher earnings to increased civic engagement, better health and a reduced reliance on social services, a post-secondary education is woven into all aspects of community and economy,” said Kent A. Phillippe, PCO Initiative Director. “Assigning value to an institutional experience or credential can be a challenge, and existing approaches too often default to measures of employment and earnings that fail to capture the broader contribution of college attendance to an individual. Fully measuring what happens to a person after college is no simple matter, and the tendency to revert to data that are already available is understandable. AACC, AASCU, and APLU’s Post-Collegiate Outcomes (PCO) Initiative has developed a strategic framework to guide discussion of student outcomes after college and measurement tools for reporting them.”

Christine Keller, Executive Director of the Voluntary System of Accountability, said, “Ever since APLU and AASCU introduced the VSA College Portrait in 2008 to provide common user friendly information to policymakers students and families, we have received consistent feedback from our participants about their desire to add post-collegiate outcomes data. However we have been stymied by the lack of common definitions and measurements. I was pleased to contribute to the important work undertaken by the PCO initiative on behalf of the VSA, APLU and AASCU. I look forward to extending the work to develop metrics that could be tested and eventually reported as part of the VSA.”

The PCO Framework and Toolkit consist of several inter-related components. The core component of the toolkit is the conceptual framework, which considers the personal and public benefit of a college education from both an economic perspective (i.e. salary and tax revenue) and the human capital side (i.e. charitable and community engagement).

Understanding where along the dimensions various outcomes fall will provide a better understanding of who is benefiting and how. The framework further defines important factors that users should consider when measuring outcomes. Dimensions such as the audience for outcome measures, the appropriate level of analysis when considering an outcome, and how long after leaving an institution the outcome should be measured.

In addition to the framework, the toolkit contains a series of stakeholder perspectives; two in-depth explorations of dimensions for developing outcome metrics; a discussion of the policy implications; and next steps for refining the framework more completely. The development of the framework and the accompanying tools are an important first step toward the creation of common metrics and indicators for reporting a more comprehensive set of post-collegiate outcomes.

The post-collegiate outcomes strategic framework is one of the efforts APLU, AASCU, and AACC are undertaking as part of the commitment they made at the White House College Opportunity summit in December 2014 to bolster educational attainment efforts and strengthen educational pathways for students. As one of their action steps, the groups pledged to provide more accurate and comprehensive outcomes measures of student progress and success.

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