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New measures to help define success of two-year institutions

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (Jan. 12, 2011) – Tidewater Community College has been selected as one of 40 community colleges to pilot a new Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA) that is designed to redefine what “success” means for two-year institutions nationwide.

 The VFA represents the first national system to provide accurate data, operational transparency and the ability for colleges to benchmark student progress and completion data against peer institutions.

The VFA is being developed by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) in collaboration with the Association of Community College Trustees and the College Board and with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Lumina Foundation for Education.

“We are pleased that our work in developing student-success measures has positioned TCC to help lead efforts to define success, broadly considered, in the community college environment,”  said TCC President Deborah M. DiCroce. “Indeed, the college has long embraced public accountability as a guiding principle.”

The pilot colleges include 37 institutions, two statewide systems and one multi-college district in 29 states. TCC is the only Virginia institution to have been selected to participate in the pilot. Starting in mid-January, the VFA pilot colleges will test a series of custom metrics that community college professionals developed over the last several months. The project fills what community college advocates have seen as a void in measures appropriate to the unique two-year college mission.

“Many traditional measures of institutional effectiveness don’t work well for community colleges,” said Walter G. Bumphus, AACC president and CEO. “For example, most are pegged to full-time students, and the majority of community college students attend part time. Our overarching goal is to develop measures appropriate to our mission that clearly tell students and policy makers how we’re doing.”

VFA pilot colleges will work from a draft technical manual developed by four VFA working groups, a technical committee, and a national steering committee made up of veteran research experts and educators from within the college community. Project leaders are developing the VFA in stages so that they can release and test core measures for which there is broad consensus on technical definitions and available data.

Additional measures will be proposed as the participants report outcomes and assess how well they gauge institutional effectiveness. Curt Aasen, TCC’s director of institutional effectiveness, welcomes the opportunity for TCC to help develop these national metrics.  (See link to VFA website for a list of committee members and participating colleges.)

“Pilot testing is a critical part of developing the VFA,” said Kent Phillippe, AACC’s associate vice president of research and student success and director of the VFA initiative. “We want to learn from the pilots the utility of the measures and feasibility of reporting this data for all types of community colleges.”

Late in January, AACC will make available all the resources provided to the pilots so that any institution will be able to calculate the proposed VFA measures, understand the pilot testing process and learn more about the VFA.  Added to the pilot testing, AACC will develop mock-ups for what could be built as the VFA data collection and display tool, and share the preliminary designs during the AACC annual meeting and via virtual meetings in the second half of 2011.

A full-scale roll-out to the nation’s close to 1,200 community, junior and technical colleges could take place starting in 2012, pending outcomes of the pilot testing, reaction to the VFA among AACC member institutions and future funding.

“The Obama administration and others are focused on greater numbers of student completions and demonstrable measures for how we gauge student success.  VFA is the community college response that says, ‘We accept that challenge,’” Bumphus added.


Laurie White

Tidewater Community College - the largest provider of higher education and Workforce Solutions services in Hampton Roads - topped 45,000 students in 2009-10. The 16th highest associate-degree producer in the nation, TCC offers more than 150 programs including business administration, culinary arts, general studies, modeling & simulation, network security, nursing, and automotive technology. Among the fastest-growing two-year institutions in the United States, TCC was founded in 1968 as a part of the Virginia Community College System. The college serves the South Hampton Roads region with campuses in Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach as well as the TCC Jeanne and George Roper Performing Arts Center in Norfolk’s theater district, the Visual Arts Center in Olde Towne Portsmouth, the Regional Automotive Center in Chesapeake, and the Advanced Technology Center in Virginia Beach. Forty-five percent of the region’s residents attending a college or university in Virginia last fall were enrolled at TCC. For more information, visit

The American Association of Community Colleges is a non-profit organization representing the nation’s close to 1,200 community, junior and technical colleges and their more than 12 million students. Community colleges are the largest and fastest growing sector of higher education.

The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), in partnership with the Association of Community College Trustees and the College Board, is collaborating with community college leaders to develop the Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA). The VFA will define metrics that can be used to provide accountability and gauge the effectiveness of community colleges in meeting their stated missions. Ultimately, the VFA will identify sector-appropriate data definitions and include the ability for colleges to benchmark their student progress and completion data against like institutions.