Riverland Comm. College’s accountability tracked online

Published 4:29 pm Saturday, July 19, 2008

A new publicly accessible Accountability Dashboard that tracks 10 key performance measures of Riverland Community College and the other 31 Minnesota State Colleges and Universities was unveiled June 17 by Chancellor James H. McCormick.

The dashboard, available online at www.mnscu.edu, displays such indicators as net tuition and fees as percent of median income, student persistence and completion, related employment of graduates, licensure exam pass rates, percent change in enrollment and condition of facilities. Data are available for six of the 10 performance indicators. The other four indicators are under development.

“These are valuable indicators that should inform the Board of Trustees about the challenges we face on our campuses,” said Riverland President Dr. Terrence Leas. “We also understand the public wants more than simple assurances that we offer affordable, high-quality education. The dashboard provides evidence of what we do well and what needs attention. By being transparent about where we need to improve, we believe we will become an even better college.”

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The dashboard, which took about two years to develop, assigns one of three categories to each indicator — gold for “exceeds expectations,” blue for “meets expectations” and red for “needs attention.” Based on the latest data, Riverland meets expectations in four areas and needs improvement in two areas: tuition and fees and facilities condition index.

“The dashboard’s affordability measure, which uses net tuition and fees as a percent of median income, is the most troublesome area,” said Leas. This measure compares the system’s 32 institutions to similar institutions nationwide.

“Given that all the system’s colleges are in the ‘needs improvement’ category, I think it’s safe to conclude there is an issue here, but we are making progress to improve. Our tuition increase for next year is the lowest we have had in a decade. Compared with private colleges and universities and public universities, Riverland tuition ranks among the lowest and offers a good value.”

On the facilities condition index, Riverland, like many in the system, has an aging infrastructure. The average age of buildings in the system is 35. Each year, the Minnesota Legislature provides some money for major repairs but the backlog for the system as a whole continues to grow. Fortunately, during the past session, Riverland received $2.2 million towards replacing the heating ventilation and air conditioning system at the Albert Lea campus and replacing the roof on part of the Austin campus West Building. This funding will help improve the condition of Riverland facilities.