Questions and Answers
about Measuring Up 2000
THESE ARE SOME of the questions that have been asked frequently since publication of Measuring
Does Measuring Up 2000 only take into account need-based financial aid?
No. In the Affordability category, the indicator called “ability to pay” accounts for all student financial aid
(need-based and merit-based) provided by the state, by the federal government (Pell Grants) and by col-leges
and universities (institutional aid). The total of all three types of student aid are subtracted from col-lege
expenses (tuition plus room and board) in calculating the percent of family income required to attend
the various types of colleges and universities in the state.
For example, in Georgia, the HOPE scholarships are included in the amount of financial aid subtracted
from college expenses. The HOPE program improves Georgia’s performance for some but not all income
groups in the state. HOPE scholarships benefit students primarily from middle to higher income levels; low-er
income families do not benefit and the ability to pay measure looks at the affordability for all families in
the state. (Note: Due to a recent change in HOPE, Pell Grant recipients now are eligible to apply. This could
change Georgia’s performance on the ability to pay measure in subsequent editions of Measuring Up.)
States also are assessed on strategies to make college affordable, whether the policy focus is on low
tuition or state need-based financial aid programs. These indicators are referred to as “strategies for afford-ability.”
Finally, the extent to which students in the state rely on loans is also considered in the state perform-ance
Our state has moderate tuition compared to the rest of the country, why did we get a poor grade in the
College expenses (tuition plus room and board) are considered in relation to family income in each state.
For instance, if a state has average tuition levels compared to the rest of the country, but the state’s popula-tion
is generally poorer, even moderate levels of tuition may pose a problem in providing an affordable
education for residents of that state, even when all forms of financial aid are included.
Four key factors are considered in determining a state’s performance on the ability to pay measure: 1)
college expenses (tuition and room and board); 2) financial aid from the state, the federal government and
from colleges and universities; 3) family income in each state; and 4) the type of institutions in which stu-dents
Why does the number of high school graduates going on to college appear to be lower than the number
reported in some states?
In assessing participation in college, some states monitor how many high school graduates in a given year
enroll in college the following fall. Measuring Up 2000, however, looks at ninth graders and whether or not
they are enrolled in college four years later. This measure was chosen because it provides a broader pic-ture
of college participation of the young population of each state.
Why report only on five-year graduation rates? Many students enroll part-time or have good reasons for
taking longer to earn a bachelor’s degree.
Five-year bachelor degree completion is reported for first-time, fulltime students. This measure is fair when
comparing bachelor’s degree completion for these students across the states. Some argue that colleges and
universities can and should be doing a better job for these students.
The National Center also advocates the use of six-year and ten-year bachelor’s degree completion rates.
A clearer picture of the completion category would result if these measures were added. However, the only
available five-year bachelor’s degree attainment data considers just first-time, fulltime students.
Some states have recently enacted measures intended to improve some of the very problems that
Measuring Up 2000 revealed? Is this taken into account in the grading?
Only if these measures have resulted in improved performance. Measuring Up 2000 evaluates and com-pares
results, not particular policies or effort. However, if recent policy changes do improve state perform-ance,
this progress will be reflected in future editions of Measuring Up. The National Center recognizes
that many states have taken important and promising steps towards improvement that are expected to
raise performance. Several examples are cited in the Measuring Up 2000 article,“Some States to Watch:
Recent Higher Education Initiatives” (pages 162-165).
Several states have more recent information on some of the indicators that was not reflected in Measuring
Up 2000. Why?
While individual states sometimes have more current data, only information that is collected on a national
basis can be used if states are to be fairly compared, evaluated and graded. That is, the information must
be collected at the same time with the same methodology by a nationally credible agency or organization.
Measuring Up 2000 uses the most recent national data available, mostly from 1998. However, the National
Center encourages states to augment Measuring Up 2000 with the best state specific information available
and to press the appropriate agencies, particularly the U.S Department of Education, for more timely col-lection
and publication of national higher education data.
A more complete “Q and A” appears on Page 15 of Measuring Up 2000
and on the web site www.highereducation.org.
The State-by-State Report Card for Higher Education