TCUs Create Innovative Accountability Measures

Nov 15th, 2007 | By | Category: 19-2: Our Story, Our Way, Tribal College News

The American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) has launched the first comprehensive attempt to define and measure American Indian college student success. The first in a series of annual reports is now available.

AIHEC initiated the project in 2003 with a grant from Lumina Foundation for Education. “As demands for accountability increase at the nation’s colleges, the importance of collecting and analyzing student data grows exponentially,” says Martha D. Lamkin, president and CEO of Lumina Foundation.

AIHEC created “American Indian Measures for Success in Higher Education” to provide that accountability. “The tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) wanted a system that would report the college’s performance to not only funders and accreditation agencies but also to students, the community, and the institution itself,” according to AIHEC Board Chair Cheryl Crazy Bull.

“A measurement that works for a federal agency may not tell the program director, the college president, or the community whether the college is serving their needs,” says Crazy Bull, a Sicangu Lakota woman who is also the president of Northwest Indian College (Bellingham, WA).

“AIHEC continues to provide strong leadership and commitment toward Lumina’s goal of access and success in education beyond high school by working to define measures of success like these,” adds Lamkin.

The project’s first challenge 4 years ago was defining the data that needed to be collected and then figuring out how to collect it. At the time, the tribal colleges and universities collected graduation numbers but not retention numbers. Because they have unique missions, the colleges needed not only these numbers but many others to accurately reflect their progress.

An advisory committee of national and local experts developed 45 different success indicators, and AIHEC contracted with Systemic Research, Inc., of Norwood, MA, to establish a system together with the colleges to collect the data for these indicators. The results are published in a 215-page fact book.

Because numbers alone cannot convey success, the report also includes vignettes of students and institutions telling their stories.

Lumina Foundation for Education is an Indianapolis-based, private foundation dedicated to expanding access and success in education beyond high school for all students, particularly underserved students.

For more info, contact Al Kuslikis at AIHEC (703) 298.3951 or email See the report at

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