Assessment and accountability are embedded in the context in which most colleges and universities operate. In the current climate, one is deeply entwined with the other. Originally, assessment in higher education meant assessing students. The broader appeal of the concept quickly claimed the attention of a multitude of constituents within the academy, each with a different goal in mind – from program review to public relations. Those whose relationship to the academy was once or twice removed, such as trustees, accreditors, and legislators, saw assessment as a simple and cost effective means to report information about the effectiveness of complex organizational processes as a way to hold institutions accountable. Especially in times of economic upheaval, “accountability” held much promise for those watching the bottom line.
New England Resource Center for Higher Education, University of Massachusetts Boston, "Brief 3: Making Assessment Work" (2000). New England Resource Center for Higher Education Publications. 27.