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Chancellor Loren Crabtree and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, are among the leaders of a new national effort to strengthen accountability and transparency among all public colleges and universities.

The goal of the Voluntary System of Accountability project – a project of the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities – is to provide consistent and transparent information on the undergraduate experience. Officials announced the effort in November.

The product – College Portrait – is a five-page template that ensures that all students, parents, legislators and other stakeholders can compare the same information when evaluating the performance of a university. The information is divided into three broad categories: student and family information, student experiences and perceptions, and student learning outcomes. Crabtree served on the committee that developed the template.

Along with the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, other universities joining the compact include the California State University system, the University of North Carolina system, the University of Texas system, the University of Wisconsin system and the University of Iowa.

Loren Crabtree"We are proud to be involved from the ground up on a project that will have a great impact on higher education across the nation," Crabtree said. "It will help students and their families determine the right institution for them and help make clear the true value of higher education."

Among the key indicators are cost of attendance, degree offerings, living arrangements, graduation rates, transfer rates and student engagement. A pilot project also will measure student progress in critical thinking and written communication through several standardized tests and licensing data. The project will focus on a new cost calculator, measures of student success and progress data.

An institution entering the Voluntary System of Accountability compact will need a transition period to implement the methods of assessment and utilize the data to improve its programs. At the conclusion of a four-year period, all data from participating institutions will be made public and will be updated at least once every three years.

The latest issue of Newsweek magazine takes a look at accountability in higher education. Click here to read their coverage, which includes comments from Crabtree.

Learn more about College Portrait at www.voluntarysystem.org.