Statement on Report of the Postsecondary Value Commission

May 12, 2021

WSCUC applauds the Postsecondary Value Commission for advancing the conversation about public and individual value of higher education, and especially for underlining boldly that equity and evidence matter.

One of WSCUC’s priority initiatives, “Better Conversations, Better Data,” supported by The Lumina Foundation, aligns with the PVC report in focusing on using data in the accreditation process to better understand whether institutions are successfully serving students of color and underrepresented populations and closing gaps in student outcomes over time by race/ethnicity, gender, financial need, and other factors.

Another central charge to higher education institutional accreditors is quality assurance. WSCUC has implemented peer benchmarking as part of its accreditation review process. Peer benchmarking is not intended to create bright lines, floors, ceilings, or thresholds. WSCUC’s approach is complimentary to the Commission’s idea that data are to be used for action, improvement and incentives, not for ranking and shaming.

In opening ARC2021, WSCUC’s annual conference, on April 28, President Jamienne S. Studley said,

“The deepest work we do at WSCUC is to lead conversations on campus and with accrediting teams to delve into what’s actually happening. We say “why?” and “how?” a lot. When results are good, that helps accelerate progress and reveal what’s worth sharing. When results are weak, we search for causes and improvement and use evidence to shape the commission’s decisions.”

She went on, “No work is more real to us than helping our accredited institutions achieve equitable student success. Disaggregated and trend data in context allow us together to interrogate – defined as ‘questioning formally and systematically’ – practices and assumptions, and then to improve. This work can’t be superficial. Together we need to dig deep to find the roots and weeds of systemic racism and corrosive inequity.”

Another important focus of the Commission’s work is on economic returns and earnings premiums. WSCUC recognizes that a critical factor in student success is graduation from an institution having gained the skills and abilities to secure employment that, at a minimum, provides students the means to repay their student debt and not default on student loans. To this end, WSCUC’s Key Indicators include a focus on student debt accumulation and the ability to repay debt post-graduation – some examples of metrics include the repayment rate and whether students earn more than a high school graduate post-graduation.

WSCUC looks forward to collaborating with the Postsecondary Value Commission and others to build out the data and analytic tools needed for these important inquiries, to promote the quality and outcomes across the diversity of higher education, and to support the case for the public and personal value of effective and equitable higher education.

 

WSCUC President Jamienne S. Studley, former Deputy Under Secretary of Education who was on the team that developed the College Scorecard during the Obama Administration, and WSCUC Vice President Stephanie Huie, former Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives for the University of Texas System Administration, are leading WSCUC’s work to facilitate institutional improvement through inquiry and assessment. In her former role as Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives for the University of Texas System Administration, Dr. Huie secured a first of its kind agreement with the US Census Bureau to develop a database linking student-level educational data with national wage data. Drawing on their collective experience, Studley and Huie continue to develop pathways for higher education institutions to show their value and to understand what needs to be done to continuously improve. 

 

 

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The WASC Senior College and University Commission (”the Commission”) is an institutional accrediting agency serving a diverse membership of public and private higher education institutions as well as a limited number of institutions outside the U.S. Through its work of peer review, based on standards agreed to by the membership, the Commission encourages continuous institutional improvement and assures the membership and its constituencies, including the public, that accredited institutions are fulfilling their missions in service to their students and the public good.

 

Contact: Jennifer Webber

Tel:415.608.6223

Email: jennifer [at] webberpublicaffairs.com