Higher Ed Groups Unveil Framework to Measure Post-Grad Success

The new system, which builds on past programs that the organizations collaborated on, aims to track the long-term success of students after graduation.

Three higher education associations have unveiled a plan to build a tool for the country’s colleges and universities that would allow them to track the long-term success of their students after they leave campus, degree in hand.

The framework for the Post-Collegiate Outcome (PCO) Initiative—developed by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—was the first step toward establishing a set of metrics and data points that institutions can report on in the future. A discussion draft was released last week.

“A post-secondary education is woven into all aspects of community and economy,” Kent A. Phillippe, senior research associate at AACC and director of the PCO Initiative, said in a statement. “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 PCO Initiative has developed a strategic framework to guide discussion of student outcomes after college and measurement tools for reporting them.”

Still under development, the system may account for factors like economic well-being, ongoing personal and professional development, charitable contributions, time spent volunteering, and other social and civic engagement. The goal, according to the discussion draft, is to get a better understanding of the complete value of higher education to students, families, policymakers, and other stakeholders.

Most past assessments of student outcomes after college have focused on economic measures like employment and wages. “These outcomes are important, but they are just one part of how we should measure success,” APLU President Peter McPherson said in a statement announcing the initiative in September. “This comprehensive framework will also tell us how a college education enhances a person’s capacity to continue learning and increases their involvement within community organizations and charities.”

The release of the plan came on the heels of a new college ratings framework announced in December by the U.S. Department of Education. DOE’s plan, which will consider factors like the availability of financial aid, the net price charged to students after financial aid, and graduation rates, received mixed reviews from a number of organizations, including AACC and APLU. The federal ratings system would label institutions as being high-performing, low-performing, or in the middle.

Last year, AACC, AASCU, and APLU were part of a coalition of six higher-education associations that proposed a comprehensive system for tracking undergraduate students’ progress and completion of their studies. The Student Achievement Measure (SAM) promised to improve on the federal tracking model by including data for transfer and part-time students.

The PCO Initiative borrows key concepts from SAM and builds on them, the groups said.


Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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