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is drastically
underfunded,” said
a college president
who asked not
to be identified.
“No amount of
‘performance
indicators’ or any
of that other stuff
is going to change
that.”
Or, as Mary
Thornly, president
of Trident
Technical College
in Charleston,
put it, “there’s a
strong interest in
South Carolina in
rolling back taxes
of every sort.” In
that kind of climate,
she said, more
“accountability” is
unlikely to earn large increases in spending for public higher
education.
Nevertheless, because “this is the law”—as one college
administrator after another referred to it in interviews—a
massive data collection and reporting process is under way
throughout the state.
For the 1997-98 academic year, the plan’s first year, 14 of
the 37 indicators were used to judge the performance of each
public college and university. Next year, eight more will be
added, and in the third and final year of the phase-in period,
all 37 will be in play.
Some indicators have several parts. If all of the parts of
all of the indicators are used to judge all of the campuses,
measurements could total in the thousands.
Each campus establishes a “benchmark” for each
indicator. This year, the benchmarks have little meaning
because they are based on past performance. To some extent,
that will be true for the second year as well. Beginning in
the 1999-2000 academic year, however, each school must
demonstrate that its benchmarks have been met or exceeded
in order to earn a high rating from the Commission on
Higher Education, which administers the entire unwieldy
process.
Once a year, the commission assigns ratings of one to six
for each indicator at each institution and then issues a single-
sheet “report card.”
This year, for example, Clemson received a 6 for holding
down “overhead costs per FTE student” but only a 4 for
“average class size.” The university’s total score was 92
percent, tenth highest in the state.
The highest score—101 percent—was recorded,
surprisingly, by the University of South Carolina’s branch
campus in Lancaster, a lower-division (freshman-
sophomore) school with about 1,200 students and a modest
academic reputation.
After studying these scores, Fred R. Sheheen, the state’s
former commissioner of higher education, wrote, “No other
method of which I am aware would render such results,
including the ancient practice of spilling the entrails of goats
on the ground and reading messages from the patterns
formed thereby.”
State Senator Nikki Setzler pushed the
performance plan through the South
Carolina Legislature.
South Carolina’s 37 Steps
T
he new South Carolina budgeting plan appropriates money to
public colleges and universities according to 37 “performance indicators”:
• Expenditure of funds to achieve institutional mission
• Curricula offered to achieve mission
• Approval of a mission statement
• Adoption of a strategic plan to support the mission statement
• Attainment of goals of the strategic plan
• Academic and other credentials of professors and instructors
• Performance review system for faculty, to include student and peer
evaluations
• Post-tenure review for tenured faculty
• Compensation of faculty
• Availability of faculty to students outside the classroom
• Community or public service activities of faculty for which no extra
compensation is paid
• Class sizes and student-teacher ratios
• Number of credit hours taught by faculty
• Ratio of full-time faculty compared to other full-time employees
• Accreditation of degree-granting programs
• Institutional emphasis on quality teacher education and reform
• Sharing and use of technology, programs, equipment, supplies and source
matter experts within the institution, with other institutions and with the
business community
• Percentage of administrative costs compared with academic costs
• Use of best management practices
• Elimination of unjustified duplication and waste in administrative and
academic programs
• Amount of general overhead costs
• SAT and ACT scores of student body
• High school standing, grade-point averages and activities of student body
• Postsecondary non-academic achievement of student body
• Priority on enrolling in-state students
• Graduation rate
• Employment rate for graduates
• Employer feedback on graduates who were employed or not employed
• Scores of graduates on post-graduate professional, graduate or employment-
related examinations and certification tests
• Number of graduates who continue their education
• Credit hours earned by graduates
• Transferability of credits to and from the institution
• Continuing education programs for graduates and others
• Accessibility to the institution for all citizens of the state
• Financial support for reform in teacher education
• Amount of public and private sector grants
• Number of “distance education” credit hours