USF Participates in National Accountability Project

TAMPA, Fla. (Sept. 26, 2008) – The University of South Florida is making it easier for prospective students and their families to compare information with 302 public four-year college and universities through participation in a groundbreaking national project of higher education accountability. The project’s College Portrait™ website launches Sept. 28 at, providing high school students, parents, guidance counselors and other stakeholders with access to basic, comparable information about student characteristics, costs, student experience and learning outcomes for the participating institutions, in a user-friendly format. USF’s portrait is available at

College Portrait™ is a product of the Voluntary System of Accountability™ project, a partnership between the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC) and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) with funding from Lumina Foundation for Education. USF is a member of NASULGC and AASCU and is one of seven state universities identified as participating in the Voluntary System of Accountability™ project.

“USF is proud to be among the universities that have pledged to be national leaders in the higher education accountability movement,” said Ralph C. Wilcox, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs. “We have a strong commitment to transparency and public accountability, so providing access to critical information about the university and its accomplishments through the College Portrait™ is just one of the many ways USF is staying true to this commitment.”

NASULGC and AASCU designed the College Portrait™ to be a source of reliable data presented in a standardized format across all institutions for prospective students, families, policymakers and the general public. It is also the only voluntary accountability program that will feature student learning outcomes and easily comparable information for a majority of the nation’s public four-year colleges and universities.

The website provides an overview of the College Portrait™ and an interactive map with links to all participating four-year public colleges and universities. Website visitors can view a sample College Portrait™, which includes descriptions and explanations of the data contained in each report. An interactive map allows users to easily locate participating colleges by state and includes links to each institution’s College Portrait™, general website and an email address to request admissions information.

College Portraits™ is divided into three sections: Student and Family Information, Student Experiences and Perceptions, and Student Learning Outcomes.

The three-page Student and Family Information section addresses issues such as cost of attendance, degree offerings, living arrangements, student characteristics, graduation rates, transfer rates, and post-graduate plans. The Student Success and Progress Rate, using data from the National Student Clearinghouse, provides an accurate picture of student progress within the higher education system and offers a valuable alternative to the current method of reporting graduation rates.

The second section, Student Experiences and Perceptions, provides a snapshot of student experiences and activities and their perceptions of a particular college or university with a focus on six specific areas of student engagement: group learning, active learning, experiences with diverse groups of people and ideas, student satisfaction, institution commitment to student learning and success, and student interaction with faculty and staff. This type of information is important as students who are actively involved in their own learning and development are more likely to be successful in college.

Student Learning Outcomes, the final section, focuses on student learning using two methods: links to institution-specific outcomes data such as program assessments and professional licensure exams and a pilot project to measure student learning gains in critical thinking (including analytic reasoning) and written communication. Student learning outcomes information is still under development at most institutions, including USF, and will be added in subsequent years as colleges and universities identify the best measurement tools to report their efforts.

The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of 39 community-engaged, four-year public universities as designated by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. USF was awarded more than $360 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2007/2008. The university offers 219 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The university has a $1.6 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 45,000 students on campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.

Founded in 1887 the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC, A Public University Association), is an association of public research universities, land-grant institutions, and many state public university systems. Its 218 members enroll more than 4.7 million students and award nearly one million degrees annually. With nearly $30 billion in research, NASULGC-member universities include 10 of the top 20 universities in total federal spending on research and development in science and engineering. As the nation's oldest higher education association, NASULGC is dedicated to excellence in learning, discovery and engagement. For more information visit

American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) is the leadership association of 430 public colleges and universities Delivering America's Promise through their common commitments to access, affordability and educational opportunity. Enrolling more than 3 million students, these institutions fulfill the expectations of a public university by working for the public good through education, stewardship and engagement, thereby improving the lives of people in their community, their region and their state.

 – USF –