Meaningful, Measurable Goals
Measuring Up 2000 has generated spirited
By Kala M. Stroup
Kala M. Stroup is Missouri commissioner of higher education.
ONE WEEK AFTER Measuring Up 2000 was released by the National Center for Public Policy and
Higher Education, more than 400 Missouri higher education and government leaders gathered at
the annual Governor’s Conference on Higher Education. This forum, “Advancing Opportunity and
Achievement,” engaged college presidents, administrators, board members, faculty, legislators and Joni
Finney, vice president of the National Center, in discussions about Missouri’s results on the report card.
The headline, “Education leaders focus on state’s report card,” and extensive media coverage
demonstrated that this report stimulated public debate. When Governor-elect Bob Holden addressed
the conference, he indicated that a C average is not acceptable for Missouri. Holden challenged the
colleges and universities to work together to ensure that higher education is within the reach of all
The report continued to generate spirited discussions throughout the day. The afternoon sessions
focused on partnerships and programs designed to achieve better results; GEAR UP programs; K–16 initiatives;
Missouri Learner’s Network; and the report of the statewide Missouri Commission on the
Affordability of Higher Education. Participants were encouraged to identify policies, practices, performance
indicators, and a public accountability system for ensuring that Missouri students succeed in college.
A panel of leaders representing state, institutional and national perspectives closed the conference
by responding to the national report card’s assessment of how well Missouri has performed
the fundamental tasks of keeping higher education affordable and helping students complete their
degrees in a timely fashion. It is obvious that the report card generated lively public debate and
important discussion within Missouri’s higher education community that will foster improvement
and guide future policy directions.
The challenge facing those of us in policy roles is the translation of these discussions into a meaningful
and measurable set of goals and policies for higher education and the state.
Part of The Blueprint for Missouri Higher Education is a performance-funding model (Funding for
Results). Success of minorities and underrepresented groups, performance of graduates, quality of
prospective teachers, attainment of graduation goals, and successful job placements are some of the
performance funding elements. The performance appropriation to the core budgets represents approximately
$67 million to higher education over the last five budget cycles in addition to mission enhancement
funds, technology investments and formula-driven increases.
While this program has been successful both in funding and improved performance, it still is a
model based on individual institutional performance in the public sector only. In this environment of
collaboration with K–12 and among all institutions (public and private), a statewide report card supports
the system approach. Policy directives that encourage focused missions, collaboration, ease of
transfer and wider access demand that all higher education institutions perform as a system of
providers with some commonly agreed upon goals and measures.
With a strong private sector as a major educational provider in Missouri, it is important to focus
the discussion on student success and state goals, not just institutional success and funding of the public
As Missouri develops its blueprint for the future, and the new governor establishes specific goals
for his administration, the report card provides a set of comparative benchmarks and measurements
that will inform our discussion. Although we do not like to be considered average, and we certainly do
not believe this grade indicates the quality of Missouri colleges and universities, the report card has
been a catalyst for public discussion and has provided a framework of performance benchmarks for
the state’s system of higher education.