• Institutional Accountability and Data Reporting

    Federal Policy Priorities

    • Focus national college completion and educational attainment goals and federal evaluation efforts on the absolute number of Americans with a degree or certificate, including transfer and part-time students.

    • Work to devise more accurate student progress and completion measures that account for the persistence and success of all students, including transfer and part-time students.

    • Improve the value of institutional evaluation by using students’ federal financial aid status as a proxy for income, and assure that these disaggregated rates are reported in IPEDS.

    • Discourage federal efforts requiring states and/or institutions to collect overly burdensome, intrusive and/or unnecessary student data, while supporting data collection that directly informs key educational outcomes.

    • Encourage federal recognition of voluntary reporting structure such as the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA), a joint initiative between AASCU and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) that provides greater transparency of demographic information and core educational outcomes.

    State Policy Priorities

    • Support the development and utilization of comprehensive state data systems, and the advancement of an integrated network of state data systems, based on common data elements, to serve as a privacy-protected state-based system of student-level longitudinal data. 

    • Support state efforts to work with the higher education community, state agencies and the federal government to improve and expand student data systems to inform educators and policymakers on strategies for improving student participation, retention and completion. Statewide and multistate student data systems enhance the ability to identify challenges associated with, and solutions for, improving student success.

    • Encourage states to align data systems to better recognize and support efforts by institutions and systems participating in the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA).


    AASCU is committed to providing accurate, up-to-date data to inform institutional, state and federal policy decisions, encourage scholarly efforts on improving student success and institutional productivity, and empower students to make informed college choices, all while preserving student privacy. The association seeks streamlined state and federal data reporting requirements in order to minimize the regulatory burden on college campuses. Any proposed data collection systems should ensure that the benefits outweigh the costs imposed on institutions. To maximize the utility of this data, the collection systems should have comparable definitions for ease of use by policymakers, researchers and other stakeholders.

    State colleges and universities also seek to ensure that data reporting requirements account for the entire student population, including substantial numbers of part-time and transfer students. For federal purposes, this data should be reported by students’ financial aid status defined by the Higher Education Act for the following groups: Pell Grant recipients, Subsidized Stafford Loan recipients who are not Pell Grant recipients, and students who do not receive any federal aid or who receive only unsubsidized loans. This requirement recognizes that students’ socio-economic status affects the likelihood of college graduation, and that it is beneficial to compare graduation rates for similar groups of students.

    Many state colleges and universities have demonstrated their commitment to transparency and accountability through their longstanding involvement in the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA), a joint venture between AASCU and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU). VSA is an evolving framework of comparable, transparent data and information that facilitates the college selection process, supports institutions in the measurement of educational outcomes and assists in the identification and implementation of effective practices. VSA is currently working to improve its visibility and utility as a top destination for informing college choice.