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U-CAN: The NAICU Consumer Information Template

June 25, 2007


The NAICU consumer-information initiative -- the University and College Accountability Network (U-CAN) -- is designed to give, in a common format, prospective students and their families concise, Web-based consumer-friendly information on individual private colleges and universities.

Once it's launched in September 2007, U-CAN will consist of hundreds of institutional profiles that contain comparable data and hyperlinks to qualitative campus information. The profiles will be derived from a common template that was developed by NAICU based on consumer feedback. (Click here for a sample profile.)

Through focus groups, students and parents told us the information they most need to make an informed college choice. Their comments shaped the format and content of the consumer information template. At the request of consumers, U-CAN will be free, contain the most recent comparable institutional data, and provide multiple targeted links to campus web sites.

U-CAN will include significant information identified by policymakers as being important for accountability. Congress and the U.S. Department of Education have called for more consumer information that individuals need to evaluate colleges, a goal that NAICU strongly supports.

The in-depth information that's provided in the institutional templates and through hyperlinks to campus web sites covers an array of areas. These include admissions, enrollment, academics, student demographics, graduation rates, most common fields of study, transfer of credit policy, accreditation, faculty information, class size, tuition and fees trends, price of attendance, financial aid, campus housing, student life, and campus safety.

The template's click-through links to campuses offers consumers quick, easy access to important, non-quantitative information, including internships, student life, academics, and much more that can't be captured by a single number of set of data.

Once U-CAN is live on the NAICU web site, consumers will have easy access to information on average loans at graduation, undergrad class-size breakdown, and net tuition, for hundreds of colleges. This information, which comes from the U.S. Department of Education's IPEDS survey and the Common Data Set, is currently difficult for consumers to find.

Consumers will be able to search institutions by city, state, distance from home, size, affiliation, highest degree offering, Carnegie classification, and general types of programs offered (e.g., liberal arts, teacher preparation, professional, etc.). We are exploring the idea of adding more search variables in future phases.

NAICU has been working on U-CAN for the past year in close consultation with the National Association of Independent College and University State Executives, member presidents, and a number of other associations representing independent institutions. Participation by NAICU member institutions is voluntary. We have received positive feedback from our members on the initiative, and anticipate a high level of campus involvement.

Our September 2007 roll out will be just the beginning phase of U-CAN. It will be continually refined to enhance its value to consumers. We welcome the participation of public universities in future phases. The current form of the online tool is driven by the need to get this useful consumer resource up and going without major delay.

U-CAN will be one of many consumer information tools available to prospective students and their parents. More information resources mean better educated consumers.