Community college leaders know their institutions’ degrees and credentials offer wide-ranging value to the students who obtain them. But proving that value can be difficult.
The Post Collegiate Outcomes (PCO) Initiative aims to help. This framework, developed by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and other higher education groups, is designed to help college and university leaders quantify the public, personal, human capital and economic value of their degrees and credentials.
What follows is an excerpt of an article on the PCO Initiative that first appeared in AACC’s Community College Daily.
With rising tuition and growing student debt, dwindling state financial support and a job market that’s still recovering, Americans are increasingly questioning the value of a higher education.
A group of postsecondary education organizations, led by the AACC, hopes to guide that conversation and exploration through a draft framework it has developed. The PCO Initiative, which was launched on January 8, 2015, provides a general structure to have those discussions on the value of a college credential, ranging from private and public economic benefits to social ones, such as curbing crime and improving civic engagement.
The development of the framework and its accompanying tools are an important step toward creating common metrics and indicators for institutions as well as other stakeholders, such as students, policymakers and businesses, according to PCO officials.
An array of aspects
The broad nature of the framework is intentional, noted representatives from the partnering organizations, which include AACC, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). It is designed to capture an array of topics, some of which are rarely examined.
AACC’s Voluntary Framework of AccountabilityToo often, examining student outcomes focuses on the jobs students land right after college and the pay, said Jack Buckley, senior vice president of research at the College Board. Rarely explored are the reasons students attend college aside from the personal economic benefits, he said.
“Not everyone gets a degree for the money,” Buckley said.
The proposed framework is designed to include those less-studied areas, said Ronnie Booth, president of Tri-County Technical College (South Carolina), who served as co-chair of the PCO oversight committee. For example, some of the social benefits of higher education may include engaging in volunteerism, voter participation or charitable giving.
He added that it’s important to capture this information for a comprehensive conversation about student outcomes, even though getting that data isn’t always easy as getting earnings data. As a result, it’s often left out in policy debates and other discussions.