In 2018, more than 200 community colleges participated in the Voluntary Framework of Accountability
(VFA), using the data tool to gauge student progress
and outcomes over six years. Some of that VFA
data now is available in a new report released by
the American Association of Community Colleges
(AACC). The report focuses primarily on a cohort of
students entering college in 2011.
Using six-year outcomes provides colleges with an
opportunity to more realistically examine outcomes
for the students they serve—particularly the majority
who do not enroll full time. The median combined
student completion/persistence rate after six years
for the VFA participating colleges was 52.7 percent.
In other words, half of the colleges had 52.7 percent
of their students who started in the fall of 2011 earn a
credential by 2017, transfer to another institution by
fall of 2017 or still were enrolled.
Breaking that down further, the median completion rate for that cohort entering in 2011 was
23. 3 percent. The median transfer rate without
a credential were 25 percent, while the median
transfer rate with a credential was nearly 10 percent. That translates into a median of 35.9 percent
overall transfer rate.
When looking at overall completion/persistence
rates of the three largest racial/ethnic groups
reported in the VFA, it breaks down like this: the
median rate was 54.7 percent for white students,
51.3 percent for Hispanic students and 50.9 percent
for African-American students.
“The VFA provides more nuanced measures
that span a more appropriate time-frame, allowing
colleges to better assess how well they are serving a
diverse population of students,” says Kent Phillippe,
associate vice president for research and student
success at AACC.
While reviewing the outcomes of students after six
years provides a rich understanding of long-term
outcomes for students, “six years is a long time to wait
to see the impact of institutional changes, and the
extent that they are influencing student outcomes,”
the report’s authors point out. Earlier indicators
of student success are needed in order to evaluate
how well students are progressing toward their goals.
The VFA incorporated a variety of early or leading
indicators of success and the new report highlights
a few, including credits earned during the first term
and in the first year of college. The median rate of
students in the 2011 cohort at VFA participant colleges who earned six credits in the first term was
47.9 percent, while the median rate of students who
earned 15 credits in the first year was 33.2 percent.
In addition, half of the VFA colleges had fall-to-next-term retention rates of more than 71 percent;
90 percent of the colleges had fall-to-next-term
retention rates above 59 percent. For white students,
the median fall-to-next-term retention rates, were
72.4 percent, 72.7 percent for Hispanic students, and
67.9 percent for African-American students.
Colleges that had higher rates for students
completing six credits in first term or 15 credits in
first year also tended to have higher completion/
persistence rates and credential completion rates
for the same cohort at the end of the sixth year.
All AACC member colleges are eligible and
encouraged to participate in the VFA.
“College leaders need timely data to assess
impacts of institutional interventions on student
outcomes, and the leading indicators now included
in the VFA allow that early window into the impacts
of institutional improvements,” Phillippe says.
Learn more at vfa.aacc.nche.edu.
First look at VFA data
By Tabitha Whissemore