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UTPA first in Texas to provide campus information in new database for public
Posted: 05/15/2008
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The University of Texas-Pan American became the first higher education institution in the state May 13 to post its College Portrait to the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA) Web site - a site planned to provide an accessible, transparent and comparative source of undergraduate college information to prospective students, parents and others.

The VSA site - www.voluntarysystem.org - includes portraits from higher education institutions nationwide that give information on the characteristics of each institution and its students, cost of attendance, student engagement with the learning process, and core educational outcomes. The information is intended not only for students and families but also for policy-makers, campus faculty and staff, the general public and other higher education stakeholders. UTPA's College Portrait can be accessed at the VSA Web site or by going to www.utpa.edu/vsa/.

According to their Web site, the VSA project is a collaborative effort among the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC) and the public higher education community to provide greater accountability by public institutions. The initial development of the VSA was funded by a grant from the Lumina Foundation as well as in-kind contributions from participating institutions. The program includes a pilot project of learning outcomes measurement to be administered and evaluated over the next four years.

Collectively AASCU and NASULGC represent more than 525 public institutions that enroll 7.5 million students and award 70 percent of the bachelor's degrees awarded each year in the United States. A representative from The University of Texas System was among the 80 higher education leaders from 70 public institutions involved in development of the VSA program and identification and evaluation of the data elements included in the College Portrait template, which only became available for data entry on Feb. 15, 2008.

The College Portrait is the name of the Web template designed to communicate VSA data to the public. Information for UTPA's portrait, which is presented in a common format using established data definitions and data collection conventions for all institutions, was collected and provided by the UTPA Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness headed by Executive Director Dr. Susan Griffith.

While the template for the College Portrait is identical for all institutions, text blocks are provided to describe the institution as well as nine information buttons that can be customized to link to topics that each institution believes would be helpful to students. UTPA's portrait makes full use of these links to provide information on the Wellness and Recreational Sports Complex, Study Abroad, Academic Advisement and Mentoring, among other useful sites.

"UTPA embraced this opportunity to assist high school students and their parents as they make their college decisions and I am pleased that our Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness was able to be a state leader," said Dr. Paul Sale, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. "I believe that universities across the country have a deep and genuine desire to be transparent in all matters and the VSA tool certainly advances our collective efforts."

For more information on the VSA College Portrait for UTPA, contact Griffith at 956/381-2383 or via e-mail at sgriffith@utpa.edu.