News Release from AASCU


Contact: Susan Chilcott (202) 293.7070


New Initiative Will Transform the Public’s Ability to Track Student Progress & Completion at Individual Schools

Washington, DC – In a groundbreaking effort to enhance transparency and provide the public with a more comprehensive measure of college student progress and completion than ever before, six leading national higher education associations today unveiled a joint project called the Student Achievement Measure, or SAM.  The SAM metric will allow colleges and universities to deliver a more complete picture of student progress along the path to earning a college degree or certificate.  The SAM project is an unprecedented collaboration that provides a common tool for different types of nonprofit institutions - public and private, colleges, universities, and community colleges.

The SAM Project is a joint initiative of six national higher education presidential associations: the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), the American Council on Education (ACE), the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU).   The six partner associations include 3,000 postsecondary institutions and annually enroll nearly 24 million undergraduate students. 

Why is SAM important? 

 SAM offers an improved way to report student progress and completion by including a larger number of students and by tracking the outcomes of students who enroll in multiple higher education institutions.

Typical measures of student graduation, including government-led efforts, often underreport student achievement because they do not account for an increasingly mobile student population.

“Many of the students who attend AASCU colleges and universities are unable because of their life circumstances to complete college in four years, the measure currently used by the Department of Education,” said Muriel A. Howard, president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). “The information provided by the SAM will acknowledge many more student-completions than were previously counted. We believe AASCU’s presidents and chancellors who participate in the SAM will find this a useful tool to use in their discussions with lawmakers about their degree completion efforts and to demonstrate accountability for the use of public funds. We expect that a large proportion AASCU schools will want to participate” she said. 

Funding for the SAM Project is provided in large part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “The foundation is pleased to support colleges and universities in responding to the call for better student outcome and institutional performance measures. We are very encouraged to see the major associations converge on shared measures that recognize that students take different pathways through higher education. This is important information for institutional leaders in understanding whether their students continue on a path to success even after leaving their institution,” said Daniel Greenstein, Director of the Postsecondary Success Program at the foundation.

Launch of SAM Website 

With today’s launch of the SAM website,, the project begins the college and university sign-up phase.  Each participating college or university will begin to post its own student achievement measures on the website in Fall 2013 after data from the 2012-2013 school year become available.  New institutions and new data will continue to be added throughout 2014 – particularly for the community college sector.  Website visitors will be able to search for participating institutions by name, state, or type of school.  The higher education associations are urging all of their colleges and universities to become a part of this landmark initiative. 

“The Student Achievement Measure provides a more detailed way for schools to demonstrate success in progress and completion for a greater universe of students, including those who transfer between institutions,” said Hunter Rawlings, president of the Association of American Universities. “It also provides policymakers and the public with a more comprehensive picture than they have had in the past for making decisions relating to higher education.  This initiative is timely and important, and I encourage institutions to participate.”

Nationally, more than one in five students who complete a degree do so at an institution other than the one where they started, and 15 percent of students had previously attended college in at least one other state, according to a recent study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. 

“The typical method for calculating graduation rates, as stipulated by federal legislation, counts only those students who enroll full-time and then start and finish at their first college or university.  A lot of students are missing from graduation rate reports and SAM helps to finally correct that omission,” said M. Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU).  “We urge all colleges and universities to take advantage of the SAM metric to better account for the success of their students.  There is enormous support for this project by APLU institutions.”

“Providing realistic data on student outcomes is vitally important to community colleges and other sectors of higher education,” said Walter G. Bumphus, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges. “Our association values the opportunity for cross-sector collaboration and utilization of the measures developed through our Voluntary Framework of Accountability to help achieve that goal.”

The National Student Clearinghouse is an important source of data and contributor to the SAM Project.  "Over the past couple of years the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center sought, through its release of signature and snapshot reports, to raise awareness and inform the conversations around evolving student educational pathways and the fact that accounting for part-time students and transfers are integral to any conversation concerning attainment. We are pleased to be able to inform this effort which is leveraging our 95% nationwide coverage of degree seeking students." said Ricardo D. Torres, President and CEO of the National Student Clearinghouse.

Additional funding for the SAM project is provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.


Information on sponsoring associations: 

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) is a higher education association of more than 400 public colleges, universities, and systems whose members share a learning- and teaching-centered culture, a historic commitment to underserved student populations, and a dedication to research and creativity that advances their regions’ economic progress and cultural development. 

 The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) represents nearly 1,200 two-year, associate degree-granting institutions and more than 13 million students. AACC supports and promotes its member colleges through policy initiatives, innovative programs, research and information, and strategic outreach to business, industry and the national news media.   

The Association of American Universities (AAU) is a nonprofit association of 60 U.S. and two Canadian preeminent public and private research universities.  Founded in 1900, AAU focuses on national and institutional issues that are important to research-intensive universities, including funding for research, research and education policy, and graduate and undergraduate education. 

The American Council on Education (ACE) is the major coordinating body for all the nation's higher education institutions, representing more than 1,600 college and university presidents, and more than 200 related associations, nationwide. Founded in 1918, ACE provides leadership on key higher education issues and influences public policy through advocacy. 

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) is a research and advocacy organization of public research universities, land-grant institutions, and state university systems. Founded in 1887, APLU is the nation's oldest higher education association with 218 member institutions enrolling over 5 million students and awarding nearly 1 million degrees.  

The National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) serves as the unified voice of the nation's private, nonprofit colleges and universities.  NAICU represents more than 1000 members and is committed to celebrating and protecting the diversity of the nation's private, nonprofit colleges and universities.