St. Olaf College | News

POLITICO highlights St. Olaf’s Outcomes initiative

Graduation450x300“When St. Olaf College started formulating an idea to assuage concerns about the value of a liberal arts education, President Barack Obama hadn’t yet talked about a federal college ratings system, and his College Scorecard wasn’t around.

“It was 2008 or so, the height of the economic recession, and St. Olaf administrators were more concerned about prospective students, pundits and parents than policymakers or the president. But what they came up with — an ‘Outcomes initiative‘ — put the Minnesota liberal arts college ahead of the game,” begins a POLITICO story that looks at what colleges are doing to provide data on student success. [Subscribers can read the full story here.]

“Today, state and federal regulators are pushing or have signed on to at-times controversial policies basing college funding on student outcomes such as loan default rates, job placement rates and salaries,” continues reporter Allie Grasgreen. “And more institutions are, like St. Olaf, publishing data online to make the case that they prepare their graduates for good jobs.”

The college’s Outcomes initiative aims to clearly outline the return on investing in a St. Olaf education by measuring student success and making that information readily available online.

Other schools, ranging from American University to the University of Texas System, have recently launched similar initiatives, notes the POLITICO story.

U.S. Department of Education Undersecretary Ted Mitchell tells POLITICO it’s “perfectly fitting” that colleges would push out their own data ahead of any government accountability plan, and he applauds the effort.

“More transparency about learning outcomes is good for everyone,” Mitchell notes.

Terry Hartle, senior vice president of government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, tells POLITICO that for individual institutions to be identifying and documenting their aspirational outcomes — a trend he expects will only escalate — is “a very welcome development.”

The POLITICO piece ends by noting that “Anderson is well aware of the growing pressure — from the federal ratings system to performance-based funding in states from Hawaii to Maine — on colleges to show they’re worth the investment. But it doesn’t bother him. He’s only concerned about St. Olaf.”

“I’m still skeptical that we have any ability to influence what the federal ratings people are going to devise,” Anderson tells the publication. “I just don’t think they’re going to take into account what a liberal arts college with 3,000 students is going to do.”