Once a campus is committed to the process of continually working to improve equitable student outcomes, it’s crucial to set clear goals and establish a culture of accountability. Goals are often founded on data, and work toward them is likewise fueled by continual check-ins on progress. At the start of the Frontier Set initiative, each site set targets and publicly committed to student success by sharing long-term credential production goals. Frontier Set sites make goals public in order to create transparency and accountability, and to generate a sense of urgency and involvement across campus. Students themselves are arriving to sites with their own ambitious goals. Frontier Set sites recognize that and push themselves to both match and support those goals. Sites dream big, with hopes for dramatically different student outcomes across the country, setting goals big and small along the way to help them get there.
Those goals should be clear to all: AASCU, the intermediary for regional comprehensive universities, noted that “Transformed institutions are publicly committed to and accountable for increasing access and creating opportunities for the success of underserved students, both during and after their time as students.”
Institutions in the Tennessee Board of Regents and University System of Georgia have aligned their student-success goals with state goals, as well as a range of public accountability measures. In turn, system boards and legislatures hold their respective systems accountable. This alignment and mutual accountability support goal-setting and, additionally, both systems regularly engage the public in conversations about the “why” of transforming for student success. The Tennessee Board of Regents also creates annual publicly reported College Profiles, which include both student characteristics and key performance indicators.
Harper College has found it’s important to check in frequently on goals and progress, reiterating the importance of the work every semester. These frequent check-ins ensure all are reminded of why they’re engaged in this work, and reinforce a common message around a common goal. To aid in this effort, they created a website with dashboard indicators that show if they are on target with key components of their strategic plan. Sinclair Community College also created a website to house all of their policies in once place, so that everyone on campus has access to current rules and procedures.
Data also help track changes in a transparent way. Santa Fe College noted that when they disaggregated data down to the department, discipline, and course levels, it helped show faculty how their individual efforts add up to a better student experience, as well as how they contribute to institutional performance. That continues to fuel the cycle of engagement with faculty and staff: As they see their work make a difference, they continue to drive innovation and build on the culture of engagement and collaboration.
Frontier Set sites set ambitious goals—as a group, they aim to totally erase attainment gaps and radically increase completion rates. Many sites feel that ambition keenly, like Morehouse College, which wrote:
Transforming the college is not an easy task, but it is a necessary one. A task taken to live up to the call to be as great (or greater) an institution for social justice in the 21st century as it was in the 20th century.
This “dream big” mentality is central to transformation. Though there are many steps and checkpoints along the way, it’s important to keep the end goal of improved student success and increased equity in outcomes as the north star. Florida International University sees goals and accountability—ownership of the process—as the heart of transformation:
Institutional transformation is: a willingness to be vulnerable, and to know that our goals are so important and consequential that they warrant the challenges and discomfort that accompany change; a lack of complacency and recognition that there is no end point; commitment, at all levels, to examine our practices and revise them as needed, setting our egos aside; willingness to accept both failures and successes as opportunities to pause, reflect, and learn; and dedication to leaving one’s institution better than one found it.