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Project Title:Accountability CampaignInstitution Name:Grand Valley State University Innovation Category:Accountability and Advocacy Project Director:Matt McLogan, Vice President for University RelationsContact Information:(616) 331-2190, mcloganm@gvsu.eduWebsite:http://www.gvsu.edu/accountability
Project Description:

Grand Valley State University has found a comprehensive and effective way to illustrate how the university is a good steward of taxpayer, donor and student financial resources while achieving exceptional results. Government officials, journalists, donors and students benefit from the information.  The institution’s efforts began with an Accountability Report that was printed and posted online. It received national recognition from CASE as a best practice. The university has expanded from that to a full website, www.gvsu.edu/accountability, complete with a Dashboard report, a “cost reduction efforts” talking points card and six categories that illustrate Grand Valley’s resourcefulness and success.


Objectives:The primary objective is to change the conversation that swirls around higher education, away from the notion that there is reckless spending and that tuition is the only metric that should be considered when looking at a university’s performance. Ultimately the goal is to change the public policy of supporting higher education. The GVSU Accountability Report and companion website show that there is a remarkable return on state-appropriated investment in public higher education to the taxpayers of Michigan and to Grand Valley students. This accountability initiative also answers the growing call for universities, and all public entities, to be more transparent.

Transparency and changing the conversation: The university provides sourced material that illustrates that the institution succeeds in maximizing taxpayer and student tuition dollars and in cultivating tremendous private-public partnerships. Comparison charts of all of Michigan’s public universities are provided on the website. The site also illustrates the economic impact of GVSU on the regional and state economy.

CASE cited the report as a best practice. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, in a speech he delivered in Grand Rapids, said the Accountability and Dashboard reports show Grand Valley to be a model of efficiency and transparency. Legislators and other leaders reference the report. The website and the data within have been cited by citizens writing letters to the editor in local and regional news outlets. Journalists comment on its usefulness.

Challenges/Problems Encountered:One of the challenges involves wading through a significant amount of data and determining which information to include or exclude from the Accountability website and the Accompanying dashboard reports. After choosing which statistics and reports portray the university in the most appropriate and responsible light, a challenge is to package it all into an attractive, easy-to-digest format and not spend too much on the printing. We had to design the entire website to be user friendly for media and all stakeholders. The results reflect communication at its best.
Evaluation Approach:The president of GVSU requested the first Accountability Report in 2007. The vice president of University Relations and News and Information Services (NIS) is responsible for producing the report. The data comes from external and internal sources. The Accountability Report must be evaluated annually to determine if each chart is useful to the university and its constituents to ensure that there is an increased understanding of the public and private support Grand Valley receives and the outcomes the institution produces with these resources. The public conversation regarding stewardship and responsibility is constantly monitored and evaluated by the administrators involved. NIS provides the content for the Accountability website.
Potential for Replication:The Accountability Report and website used by Grand Valley can be replicated at any college or university. The data chosen obviously has to work for the institution involved. A key challenge, as cited above, is to take an abundance of institutional data and compile and present it in an attractive, easy-to-read format that is useful for busy stakeholders and reporters, who can in turn help spread the message of institutional contributions to the public and private good.
CEO-to-CEO Contact:Thomas J. Haas , Presidenthaastj@gvsu.edu
(616) 331-2100
Date Published: Monday, October 17, 2011