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The official blog of @SCHEVResearch at the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. Discussions about our work, national higher education data policy, and highlights about the data we publish.


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End of Semester Notes

by Tod Massa 4. May 2018 21:20

I want to highlight this article from InsideHigherEd which addresses the good and important work of our Private Postsecondary Education section at SCHEV. I saw bits and pieces of the work ACCT as it emerged into the public actions of the Council. It was impressive in its detail, thoroughness, and conscientious effort. In short, it is the kind of work we hope to see everywhere, but especially in the public sector.

The SCHEV audit -- which is included in a 590-page case file on ACCT released as part of the Century Foundation request -- also found that online course offerings at the institution were substandard. The SCHEV audit found that “ACCT’s online presence has a high degree of non-engagement as one would expect from a diploma mill as opposed to a genuine institution of higher education” and noted that “the geographical dispersal of students” -- nearly half of whom had addresses outside Virginia, some with recorded addresses as far away as Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan and Nevada -- “is indicative of visa-mill behavior and undermines the claim that educational activity of sufficient quality is occurring.” 


I note with much sadness of the passing Cliff Adelman. He was a true giant in the field of education research. This essay from 2010 is something we should all re-read occasionally when we talk about accountability in higher ed.

At the end of this exploratory flight, I am not sure where to land, other than to acknowledge an obvious distinction between the practice and the nature of “accountability”: the former is accessible; the latter is still a challenge. Empirically, U.S. higher education has chosen a quasi-Socratic framework, providing an ever-expanding river of data to indeterminate (or not very persuasive) audiences, but with no explicit quality assurance commitment. Surrounding this behavior is an environment of requests and counter-requests, claims and counter-claims, with no constant locus of authority.

Ironically, a “market” in the loudest voices, the flashiest media productions, and the weightiest panels of glitterati has emerged to declare judgment on institutional performance in an age when student behavior has diluted the very notion of an “institution” of higher education. The best we can say is that this environment casts nothing but fog over the specific relationships, responsibilities, and obligations that should be inherent in something we call “accountability.”

Perhaps it is about time that we defined these components and their interactions with persuasive clarity. I hope that this essay will invite readers to do so.

Cliff was influence on my work and career, even when we pointedly disagreed. Perhaps most especially then. He will be missed, especially as discussions around a national or federal student record system/network continue.



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