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CSU Commits to Voluntary System of Accountability Measures

(Nov.14, 2007) – The California State University has committed to providing data on student learning, student engagement, and enrollment and graduation as part of a national initiative called the Voluntary System of Accountability. Each of the 23 CSU campuses will develop a web-based template called the College Portrait that is designed to specifically communicate accountability data to the public.

Each College Portrait will provide information on student characteristics, including age and ethnicity, retention and graduation rates, financial aid, student experiences and perceptions, and student learning outcomes. In addition, the CSU is going beyond the VSA College Portrait template and adding a “public good” contributions page to each campus template. Included in the CSU “public good” page is information on total degrees awarded, the contribution of CSU students to the workforce, number of Pell Grant recipients, average net tuition and fees paid per student, and the average loan debt for CSU bachelor’s degree recipients. To view the VSA College Portrait template and CSU “public good” page click here and scroll down.

“The Voluntary System of Accountability and CSU’s ‘public good’ page represent an unprecedented effort in higher education to provide the public with data about the total student learning experience, and together promise to hold universities accountable for delivering on their mission,” said John D. Welty, president, California State University, Fresno, who represented the CSU on the national initiative.

More than 80 higher education leaders from 70 public colleges and universities nationwide have contributed to the VSA.

“As the largest public university system in the country, CSU has been a leader in this voluntary effort to ensure the transparency of information about how our students are acquiring critical thinking, information literacy and communications skills,” said CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed. “We are going even further by adding the CSU ‘public good’ page that shows the diversity of our students, our contribution of graduates to the workforce, and the economics of attending a CSU. This clearly demonstrates the value of the CSU, and illustrates our efforts to reach out to underserved communities, and our partnerships with the state’s key industries.”

As part of the CSU’s commitment to the VSA, each campus’s College Portrait will include by fall 2009:

  • Undergraduate success and graduation rates, including retention and the length of time students take to graduate
  • Survey results about the future plans of bachelor’s degree recipients
  • Results from the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) or other measure of student engagement at least every three years
  • Results from the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA), which all CSU campuses will administer to freshmen and seniors as a measure of critical thinking skills, beginning in 2007-08.


Following the issuance of the Spellings Commission report in 2006, which suggested the possibility of a federal mandate on accountability for public universities, two of the largest higher education associations – the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC) – immediately initiated an effort to provide clear, accessible information about students that would be useful to parents, students, future students, legislatures and the general public. A key element is that the new modes of accountability are to be voluntary on the part of colleges and universities.

As a member of both organizations, the CSU has taken a leadership role in the development of the VSA, with Fresno State President John Welty and CSU Chancellor Reed serving on the VSA Presidential Advisory Commission, and Presidents King Alexander (CSU Long Beach) and Jolene Koester (CSU Northridge) serving as chairs of technical work groups on the project. In addition, other CSU campus administrators and faculty participated in many of the VSA work groups.

The California State University is the largest system of senior higher education in the country, with 23 campuses, approximately 430,000 students and 46,000 faculty and staff. Since the system was created in 1961, it has awarded nearly 2.5 million degrees, about 86,000 annually. The CSU is renowned for the quality of its teaching and for the job-ready graduates it produces. Its mission is to provide high-quality, affordable education to meet the ever-changing needs of the people of California. With its commitment to excellence, diversity and innovation, the CSU is the university system that is working for California. See

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Last Updated: November 15, 2007

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