Sweet Briar Joins Web-based Information Network to Share, Compare Data

| September 26, 2007

Sweet Briar College is one of more than 600 private higher education institutions to be profiled in the University & College Accountability Network launched Sept. 26, 2007, by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

As of the launch date, about 440 colleges and universities, including Sweet Briar, had published their profiles to the network, which NAICU has dubbed U-CAN.

U-CAN is a Web-based source for comprehensive information about participating colleges and universities. It was developed over the past year in response to pressure from the U.S. Congress, Department of Education and the public to provide transparent facts, figures and institutional characteristics to prospective students and their parents.

U-CAN does not rank institutions. The information provided in the two-page profile on each school is derived from the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System survey and the Common Data Set. Participating institutions contribute narrative sections in addition to data.

The data include admission rates, enrollment, academics, student demographics, graduation rates, most common fields of study, transfer credit policy, accreditation, faculty information, class size, tuition and fees trends, price of attendance, financial aid, campus housing, student life and campus safety.

The content and the way it is presented are driven by consumer feedback in focus groups, according to promotional materials distributed by NAICU. A common template is used for each profile. The quantifiable data is concise and chosen for relevancy and comparability. Hyperlinks to institutions’ Web sites take users to qualitative campus information.

“In the equivalent of two pages, prospective students and families will be able to get the same information from the same year for the colleges they’re interested in,” said Ken Huus, dean of admissions at Sweet Briar.

The growing influence of rankings, such as those published annually in U.S. News and World Report, demonstrate consumers’ need for a starting point in the college search process. Yet many higher education administrators are troubled by the subjective nature of rankings.

Unlike ranked lists, U-CAN doesn’t make value judgments about the participating schools, Huus said.

“[NAICU is] just saying, ‘Here’s the data, figure out what’s best for you.’ ” he said. “The information that’s there doesn’t exist in one place anywhere else. If you went to individual college Web sites you’d find most of it, but you’d have to go looking in a lot of different places.

“NAICU has decided that these things are important to know and put them in one place. That’s the beauty of it.”

To access Sweet Briar’s U-CAN profile, go to
http://members.ucan-network.org/sbc.

Category: Academics