Monday, August 23, 2010

We Need More Juniata Colleges!

by Jonathan Robe

Last week Forbes published a piece by my colleagues here at CCAP, Matthew Denhart and Christopher Matgouranis. This article calls on colleges and universities to "collect and publish survey data detailing what their students do after leaving campus," including data on employment rates, earnings, and the level of alumni satisfaction with their collegiate education. There are already some schools which, albeit to a very limited extent, make this information public and accessible.

After this article was written, we became aware of another school, Juniata College in Pennsylvania, which is on the right track-- and even trying out effective ways to increase institutional accountability. On Juniata College's website, there's a prominent link to an "accountability" page which offers data on campus life, student costs, educational outcomes, the school's endowment, etc. Some of this data is compiled as part of the NSSE surveys, and some of it is apparently compiled by the school itself.

However, this accountability page still has much room for improvement. For instance, although Juniata provides graduation placement rates (employment or graduate school) for the entire student body, it would be enormously helpful to students if data on graduation placement rates by major was provided. Other important pieces of information which need to be added include graduate's average salaries (such as what Cornell University reports for their graduates), faculty teaching loads (or, even better, faculty salary per credit hour taught), administrative staff levels, administrative salaries over time, tuition over time, etc. They also should provide all of the NSSE data, not just a small selection (though, in fairness to Juniata College, far too many private schools don't even publish any of their NSSE data). There is probably much more which could be added, but these are the ones which immediately come to mind.

Despite these shortcomings, there is much to admire about Juniata's effort. After all, the college promotes its accountability page with a rather obvious link on its homepage (how many other schools promote accountability on this level?). The fact that Juniata published even a smattering of the NSSE data is commendable, even though more data remains to be added. Also, it appears that Juniata is working on developing the correct attitude towards accountability; they even ask visitors to their website for suggestions on how to improve the information provided on their website in order to improve accountability. It's precisely this attitude of serious dedication to accountability which is so refreshing in higher education today. My hope is that Juniata College continues to take the necessary steps in leading the way to increased institutional accountability and that other schools will follow suit.

1 comment:

tom said...

Thanks for the feedback Jonathan. We will consider all your suggestions as we continue to upgrade our accountability pages. To be fair we took the idea from the Slippery Rock University accountability page. One consequence of putting all this information on our website is that we get focused on things that are not as good as they should be - not a bad outcome. Tom Kepple, President Juniata College