For Immediate Release

Dawn Michele Whitehead
Interim Vice President of Communications

AAC&U Urges Higher Education to Take the Lead to Develop Better Evidence on College Learning and Completion

Board of Directors Urges Improvement in Approaches to Collecting Data both on Completion Rates and on Students' Achievement of Learning Outcomes Important in Life, Work, and Citizenship
Jun 3, 2014

Washington, DC—The board of directors of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) released today a statement, "Taking the Lead on Evidence."

Building on earlier public statements concerning increased calls for accountability and transparency in higher education—including those related to  President Obama's proposed new Postsecondary Institutional Ratings System—AAC&U's board "strongly encourages higher education's support of significant, association-led efforts that are working proactively to develop better data on both the quality of learning and on students' progress toward degree attainment."

The AAC&U board reiterated earlier cautions about the limitations of data currently collected by the federal government, noting that these data "are seriously limited in their ability to generate an accurate picture of today's students and their sometimes complicated pathways into and through college."

"Concerns about college affordability and return on investment are legitimate, and students and families need good information as they make decisions," said AAC&U Board Chair and Washington and Lee University President Kenneth Ruscio. "But a college education is about learning, and measuring its true value requires more than simple data points.  With that in mind, AAC&U's board of directors is urging higher education institutions themselves to take the lead in crafting better approaches to documenting the outcomes of college."

In this new statement, the board also affirmed its call made in its earlier statement, The Quality Imperative (2010), that we must accompany better completion data with much more and better evidence of what students are learning as they progress toward completion.  Toward this end, AAC&U is proud to be partnering with more than 70 colleges and universities and the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) in the latest phase of its VALUE (Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education) initiative to "develop better approaches to assessing student learning and to reporting results that are useful to faculty and institutions and to state agencies and accreditors."

As part of the current statement, the board encouraged all colleges and universities "to consider participating in one or more of these [new data collection] efforts," including the "newly created Student Achievement Measure (SAM)."

See the full text of the new board statement and earlier statements on this topic.