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WMU first in state to post voluntary accountability

April 7, 2008

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University has become the first university in Michigan and one of the first in the nation to launch a Web-based tool aimed at providing prospective students and their families a consistent and comprehensive look at critical data that will help them make institutional comparisons.

The Voluntary System of Accountability is a joint project of the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. Participating colleges and universities will post their data using a template called the VSA College Portrait. The template ensures that the data have a consistent look for all participating institutions. WMU's College Portrait went live on April 3, with a link to the information prominently placed on the WMU Home page. The University has been designated as an "Early Adopter" of the VSA and has been authorized to add that designation to its site.

"This is one way we signal our commitment to make sure the families and students we serve have access to good information to use when they make their college choices," says WMU President John M. Dunn, who said he has wanted WMU to be an early adopter since he first learned the template was close to completion. "Much of this is information that was already available, but sometimes difficult to find. The College Portrait provides more convenient packaging and makes important data more available and accessible."

VSA College Portraits are intended to communicate standard information about the undergraduate student experience at participating institutions through use of a common Web reporting format. Such information includes Carnegie classification; data on the gender, ethnicity, age and geographic origin of its students; retention rates; cost of attendance and detail on financial aid packages; number of degrees awarded and most popular areas of study; details on faculty credentials and makeup as well as class size; information on campus safety and student housing; and the most current information on student satisfaction and perceptions.

The College Portrait template was finalized last fall after a two-year development and testing process. It was made available to AASCU and NASULGC institutions Feb. 15. Nationally, 226 colleges and universities have officially registered to become participants, but to date, a far smaller number has posted a College Portrait on the Web. The initial goal is to have at least 50 percent of the AASCU and NASULGC member schools participate in VSA and use the College Portrait template. Together, the two organizations represent more than 600 public institutions that enroll 7.5 million students and award 70 percent of the nation's bachelor's degrees each year.

To find the WMU College Portrait, go to www.wmich.edu and look for the VSA College Portrait icon in the lower left corner.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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