News Release from AASCU


Contact: Susan Chilcott (202) 478-4661

Contact: Paul F. Hassen, NASULGC (202) 478-6073


302 Public Four-Year Universities Participating in Accountability Project

WASHINGTON, DC (September 28, 2008) – The College PortraitTM website provides high school students, parents, guidance counselors and other stakeholders with access to basic, comparable information about student characteristics, costs, student experience and learning outcomes for 302 public four-year colleges and universities presented in a user-friendly format. The new website is launching today at:

College PortraitTM is a product of the Voluntary System of AccountabilityTM project, a partnership between the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC) and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) with funding from Lumina Foundation for Education.

Since unveiling the College PortraitTM report format and initiating the recruiting effort in November 2007, nearly 60 percent of the 520 member institutions of the two higher education associations have agreed to participate in the project and 194 have already posted a College PortraitTM. This represents four-year institutions enrolling some 3 million undergraduates and nearly 60 percent of the total undergraduate enrollment in four-year public colleges and universities.

“The College PortraitTM places America’s four-year public colleges and universities at the forefront of the higher education accountability movement,” said Peter McPherson, president of NASULGC. “College PortraitTM is designed to be trustworthy source of reliable data for prospective students, families, policymakers and the general public. It becomes the only voluntary accountability program that includes student learning outcomes and easily comparable information for a majority of the nation’s public four-year colleges and universities.”

“No one should be surprised that public higher education has taken the lead on accountability,” said Constantine W. (Deno) Curris, president of AASCU. “Our institutions have a long history of commitment to public accountability and learning outcomes. College PortraitTM is being unveiled at a time when severe financial constraints for both families and state governments increase our obligation to provide dependable, accurate information in keeping with our public trust.”
The website provides an overview of the College PortraitTM report and an interactive map with links to all participating four-year public colleges and universities.

“The new website provides a convenient, single location for high school students, parents and others to learn how to use and where to find the College PortraitsTM,” said Christine Keller, executive director of VSATM.

Website visitors can view a sample College PortraitTM, which includes descriptions and explanations of the data contained in each report. An interactive map allows users to easily locate participating colleges by state and includes links to each institution’s College PortraitTM, general website and an email address to request admissions information.

College PortraitsTM are divided into three sections: Student and Family Information, Student Experiences and Perceptions, and Student Learning Outcomes.

The three-page Student and Family Information section addresses issues such as cost of attendance, degree offerings, living arrangements, student characteristics, graduation rates, transfer rates, and post-graduate plans. The College Cost Calculator enables students and their families to accurately estimate the net cost of attending a participating college or university. The Student Success and Progress Rate, using data from the National Student Clearinghouse, provides an accurate picture of student progress within the higher education system and offers a valuable alternative to the current method of reporting graduation rates.

“We are particularly proud of the cost calculator and the progress rate measure,” said David Shulenburger, vice president, academic affairs at NASULGC. “Studies have demonstrated that for many students, especially those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, the perceptions about the cost of college are a major stumbling block to attendance. The progress rate measure will provide insight to student progress in an era when many students attend more than one institution in pursuit of a degree.”

The second section, Student Experiences and Perceptions, provides a snapshot of student experiences and activities and their perceptions of a particular college or university. Participating institutions can report the results from one of four student engagements surveys: College Student Experiences Questionnaire (CSEQ), College Senior Survey (CSS), National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), and University of California Undergraduate Student Experience Survey (UCUES). The survey results focus on six specific areas of student engagement: group learning, active learning, experiences with diverse groups of people and ideas, student satisfaction, institution commitment to student learning and success, and student interaction with faculty and staff. This type of information is important as students who are actively involved in their own learning and development are more likely to be successful in college.

Student Learning Outcomes, the final section, focuses on student learning using two methods: links to institution-specific outcomes data such as program assessments and professional licensure exams and a pilot project to measure student learning gains in critical thinking (including analytic reasoning) and written communication through one of three examinations: Collegiate Assessment of Academic Proficiency (CAAP), Measure of Academic Proficiency and Progress (MAPP) or the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA).

The pilot project requires participating institutions to select from one of three instruments to measure broad cognitive skills. Skills will be measured at the institution level across all academic disciplines. Results will be described as the learning gains between the freshman and senior years and as the actual average test scores for freshmen and seniors.

Since the measurement of student learning at the institutional level is not widespread, many institutions will need a period of time to find the best methods of administration and to determine how to use the test results to improve their educational programs before making the results of the outcomes tests public. For a period of four years, institutions may choose not to publicly report test results. After the four-year period is concluded, institutions will report and update the results at least once every three years.

The VSATM project and development of College PortraitTM has benefitted from the involvement of more than 80 higher education administrators and faculty members from more than 70 NASULGC and AASCU institutions over a two-year period. Data elements included in the College PortraitTM were identified based on input from student/family focus groups, feedback from the higher education community and higher education research.


Founded in 1887, the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC, A Public University Association), is an association of public research universities, land-grant institutions, and many state public university systems. Its 218 members enroll more than 4.7 million students and award nearly one million degrees annually. With nearly $30 billion in research, NASULGC-member universities include 10 of the top 20 universities in total federal spending on research and development in science and engineering. As the nation's oldest higher education association, NASULGC is dedicated to excellence in learning, discovery and engagement. For more information visit 

AASCU is the leadership association of 420 public colleges and universities Delivering America's Promise through their common commitments to access, affordability and educational opportunity. Enrolling more than 3 million students, these institutions fulfill the expectations of a public university by working for the public good through education, stewardship and engagement, thereby improving the lives of people in their community, their region and their state.