First look at VFA data

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 soon-to-be-released report 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.

This article comes from the February/March issue of AACC’s Community College Journal. Read the entire issue online.

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.

Early indicators

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.

Join VFA today: Sign up your college to participate in the VFA this year.

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.

About the Author

Tabitha Whissemore
is a contributor to Community College Daily and managing editor of AACC's Community College Journal.