Public Purpose Magazine, Fall 2007
Public Purpose Cover Fall 2007

Truth in LearningAccountability Project Nears CompletionBy John Hammang
After more than a year of discussion and work by dozens of higher- education leaders, the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA)—a joint project of AASCU and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges—is beginning to produce recommendations for dissemination of better student-related data. The recommendations are expected to be presented to the respective boards of the two associations for their consideration during the groups’ annual meetings in November.

The project was designed as a response to criticisms about accountability in higher education, particularly those of the Spellings Commission on the Future of Higher Education last fall. Although institutions collect and publish a wealth of information related to accountability, the information is not always easy to find and often is difficult for students and families to use to make comparisons among institutions, particularly on the issue of costs.

Strategic Focusing:Securing Competitive AdvantageBy Dorothy Leland and John Moore

Today’s higher-education environment has become increasingly competitive, and many public colleges and universities have begun to adopt market-oriented strategies as a result. This competitive environment is driven by a number of forces, including the growth in corporate and for-profit institutions, a buyers-market for students, and advanced telecommunications-delivery systems. As a result, most institutions compete with an identifiable group of other public, private and for-profit institutions for students and faculty and for funding from state, federal, corporate, foundation, and other private sources.

In this environment, conventional strategic planning may not be sufficient to provide colleges and universities with a viable strategy for positioning themselves competitively. Such conventional planning typically means seeking broad strategies for advancing institutional interests related to teaching, research and service. Such planning usually focuses on enhancing effectiveness in selected core missions—for instance, improving the quality of undergraduate teaching, increasing research opportunities, and fostering community partnerships.