Risk- and Needs-Based Assessment

Last Wednesday, I made a presentation at the “Enhancing Excellence in Assessment: Institutional Effectiveness and Learning Analytics” conference held at Stony Brook University.  At that conference, my presentation noted that institutional assessment needs are shaped by the combination of the characteristics of the Higher Education environment, the Accreditation environment (in part a reflection of the Higher Education environment), and institutional strengths, weaknesses, and needs. All of those factors are linked. Each impacts an institution’s performance and capacity for improvement.

Today’s higher education environment is shaped by a number of trends. Important trends include the stagnation in U.S. educational attainment relative to its OECD partners, outcomes disparities among groups of students based on socioeconomic characteristics, persistent increases in the real (after-inflation) cost of higher education, long-term fiscal challenges facing the federal and state governments, technological change, and a growing emphasis on post-college outcomes.

In part, on account of the changing Higher Education environment, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) has been placing growing emphasis on overall institutional performance. As a result, Standard 7 (institutional assessment) became the most-cited standard in requests for follow-up reports for the first time during the 2013 self-study cycle. Previously, Standard 14 (assessment of student learning) had consistently been the most cited standard. SUNY institutions were ahead of the trend in which Standard 7 had been the most-cited standard for some time, resulting in a range of university-wide assessment initiatives.

Lehman College has also experienced a number of trends and developments that are important to its performance. Those trends and developments include the dramatic jump in transfer students as a share of first time students (now around 60%), implementation of the CUNYfirst enterprise resource planning system, and the transition to CUNY Pathways designed to facilitate ease of transfer among CUNY institutions, making CUNY a more seamless university experience.

In that context, the ability to link budgeting to planning and assessment has grown more important. The need to increase efforts to measure and respond to developments related to transfer student progression and graduation has grown. The ability to assure the quality of data available through CUNYfirst has risen. A degree of emphasis on assessment related to general education and student learning (Standards 12 and 14) in response to Pathways has gained priority.

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