Quality Assurance Standards

Higher Ed Framework Places Emphasis on Placement, Earnings

With a growing number of unaccredited educational providers, students are left to verify unsubstantiated claims made by various programs themselves. To help, education agency Entangled Solutions convened a task force of education thought leaders to develop an outcomes-based framework of quality assurance standards, which is now open for public comment through July 31.  

The new “Quality Assurance Standards” framework aims “to drive transparency, accountability and innovation in higher education,” according to information from the Entangled Solutions. The standards can be applied broadly — from universities to nontraditional education providers.

Behind the framework is the 25-member task force comprising academic institutions like  Bellevue University and the University of Texas at Austin; coding bootcamps like the Flatiron School, Galvanize and Hack Reactor; financial giants like EY and investment firm Tyton Partners; as well as former Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell, and many others. Members will review public feedback and publish a final version later this year.

The framework has identified five key metrics of student success:

  • Learning: The process of acquiring skills and knowledge is central to student success;
  • Completion: Student completion rates are good indicators of how individual learners fare within a program;
  • Satisfaction: Student and employer feedback provides invaluable insights that cannot be measured by statistics;
  • Placement: Placement rates are direct measurements of whether a program was successful or unsuccessful; and
  • Earnings: Another measure of whether a student’s investment paid off or not can be the student’s income.

Last year, the United States Department of Education launched the Education Quality through Innovative Partnerships (EQUIP) program to open up more alternative pathways for students (particularly low-income students). Coding bootcamps, online courses, employer organizations and other nontraditional education providers in the program can access federal financial aid for students through partnering with accredited colleges and universities. Along with EQUIP came the emergence of third-party quality assurance entities (QAEs), which monitor student outcomes at experimental sites to determine their eligibility for funding.  

“In order for a third-party quality assurance system to be successful, there must be a framework of quality assurance standards in place to measure and assess the learning outcomes and students success so that reporting in transparents and trustworthy, and stakeholders can compare the outcomes from like programs,” according to the framework. “Although no system can perfectly capture every dimension of an education or training program’s quality, these standards assess effectiveness through the lens of the customers — the learners who pay to attend and the employers who hire those individuals afterward.”

To that end, Entangled Solutions examined a range of near- and medium-term outcomes related to the five metrics of student success that each program could claim to offer. Students, for example, tend to place a heavy emphasis on advancing their careers as a reason for pursuing postsecondary education or training. Therefore, programs following the Entangled Solutions’ framework are required to measure placement rates within 90 and/or 180 days of program completion.

After the public comment process is complete, the company’s task force will create a nonprofit entity in charge of maintaining and updating the standards.

View the framework here.

About the Author

Sri Ravipati is Web producer for THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at sravipati@1105media.com.

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