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 FAQs on the VFA 

What is the VFA?

The Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA) is an accountability framework FOR community colleges, BY community colleges that will define appropriate measures of effectiveness based upon/relevant to community colleges’ missions and students.

When completed, the framework will include: defined measures in the areas of student progress and success; measures of the colleges ability to meet the workforce, economic, and community development needs of their service area; framework for assessing student learning outcomes, and a data collection and display tool that enables colleges to benchmark student progress and completion data against peer colleges.

What is the projected timeline for the VFA?

Currently, the VFA is in Phase II, which will end in the fall of 2011 and result in:

  • a technical manual that defines and instructs calculation of the VFA measures;
  • a wireframe for data collection and the display tool; and
  • a strategic plan for soliciting widespread participation by community colleges in Phase III.

Phase III of the initiative--the availability of the VFA to all community colleges--is anticipated to start in 2012.

Who is doing the work of the VFA?

More than 40 community college leaders from various institutions and state systems are involved in the development of the VFA. Four working groups made up of college presidents, communications professionals, accountability and institutional effectiveness staff, institutional researchers, and trustees members from a cross-section of colleges are working to identify and define measures to include in the VFA.  Each working group is led by a facilitator with experience in education consulting and communications. AACC VFA staff, the higher education community, and researchers are assisting the working groups in designing the VFA. Throughout the development of the framework, a VFA Steering Committee composed of college leadership, trustees, and researchers is reviewing the work of the groups and helping to make final decisions about the VFA.

The working groups are: Student Persistence and Outcomes; Workforce, Economic and Community Development; Student Learning Outcomes, and Communications and College Engagement.

Rosters of working groups and steering committee members are available on the VFA Web site:

Why should my college participate in the VFA?

The data collected and shared will be specific to community colleges and focused on telling internal and external audiences what they need to know to shape improvement strategies and provide resources. There is enormous potential for the VFA to be the framework that satisfies a variety of reporting requirements and simplifies the work of institutional researchers, accountability and effectiveness professionals, and presidents. 

How does this accountability initiative differ from other accountability efforts?

The VFA project participants and working group members examined many existing accountability initiatives to help shape their work. However, the VFA will differ from other initiatives because it will be 1) specific to community colleges, 2) applicable to all community colleges, 3) define measures that can be used to garner resources and inform improvement strategies, and 4) provide a data collection and display tool that enables colleges to benchmark their student progress and completion data against peer institutions. If many community colleges agree to and participate in the VFA, the potential exists to streamline accountability reporting and significantly enhance the analysis and use of data to meet the goals of the colleges.

Who is funding the VFA?

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation for Education are funding Phase II of the VFA with equal grants totaling $1 million. For long-term sustainability of the VFA, AACC and the working groups will develop a business model and explore other support options.

Who are the pilot sites that are testing the framework?

AACC selected 40 pilots through a Request for Proposal process to ensure that a broad variety of colleges would be testing the proposed measures. The colleges selected are different in size, geography, demography, institutional research capacity, and structure (centralized or decentralized reporting system). For a listing of the sites and for more information on the pilot testing, please visit: (coming January 11, 2010). 

How do I submit questions or give feedback on the initiative?

Feedback on the VFA is critically important to inform and improve the outcome of the project. AACC welcomes your input via the feedback form at:

Additionally, you may send an e-mail to the VFA project manager at


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