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Measuring student success in community colleges

Dr. Lisa Breja

Dr. Lisa Breja

By Dr. Lisa Breja

Local students enroll in community colleges for a variety of reasons. Many students enroll with the intent to complete a degree or certificate while others enroll to meet a personal or educational goal – transfer to a four-year institution, find a job, or obtain a specific skill.

Over the past three decades, several national initiatives have been developed to assess how well colleges and universities are meeting the needs of these students. One such initiative is the Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA), which was recently developed by the American Association of Community Colleges.

The VFA is a national effort which stands to provide community colleges with an improved ability to assess their performance, identify areas for improvement, and demonstrate their commitment to their mission. The VFA has three parts: 1) measures of student progress and outcomes, 2) measures of workforce, economic, and community development, and 3) an approach for assessing student learning.

By partnering with the Iowa Department of Education, all Iowa community colleges will be participating in the VFA for the first time this year.

During the first year of statewide participation, Iowa community college data will focus on short- and long-term student progress metrics. These metrics assess how effectively students move through developmental education courses, how well students persist in their education, and how well they complete a degree or certificate or transfer.

Participating colleges will have access to an online tool to compare individual college data with others. By using this analysis tool, community colleges can break down their data by gender, race/ethnicity, age, full- or part-time status, and low-income status. As a result, colleges will be able to target specific areas for improvement and develop action plans.

VFA measures related to workforce development and assessment of student learning will be addressed by a statewide sub-committee in future years.

Dr. Lisa Breja is the Institutional Researcher for IVCCD.

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