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Contact: Heather Jack
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E-mail: hjack@highereducation.org

October 2, 2002

More Students Are Now Prepared for College But State and National Gains in Other Areas Are Slight

Measuring Up 2002 Grades States on Higher Education Performance


San Jose, CA--Many states have made substantial strides in preparing students for college-level education, but there have not been widespread gains in the proportion of Americans going to college, according to Measuring Up 2002. The report card also finds that overall college opportunity in America is at a standstill, and remains unevenly and unfairly distributed. .

Measuring Up 2002, released today by the independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, measures the nation's and each state's performance in providing education and training beyond high school. Previous national and state-by-state results were released two years ago, in Measuring Up 2000.

"The largest gains since the 2000 report card are in preparing young Americans to be able to enroll in and succeed in college," said Gov. James B. Hunt Jr., chair of the National Center's Board of Directors and former governor of North Carolina. "Thirty states have improved their performance in college preparation. These improvements signal that these states are on the right path, but there are young Americans who still do not have the opportunity to prepare for and enroll in college."

Measuring Up 2002 grades states in five key areas of higher education performance: preparation, participation, affordability, completion, and benefits. Many states perform well in several areas, but no state receives straight A's in providing opportunities for education and training beyond high school.

For the nation as a whole, college opportunity is at a standstill, according to the report. "As a nation, we are doing better in preparing our young people for college than we are doing in assuring that they have opportunities to enroll in and complete programs of education and training beyond high school," said Patrick M. Callan, president of the National Center. "This is reflected in the number of mediocre grades and the very modest improvements reported in Measuring Up 2002."

For instance, according to the report:

In Preparation:
  • The strides that states made in preparing students for college-level education were greater than in any other performance area. For instance, in Arkansas the proportion of 8th graders taking algebra increased from 8% in Measuring Up 2000 to 23% in Measuring Up 2002. California had an increase from 21% to 33% on the same measure.
  • However, only four states (Maine, New York, Tennessee, and Virginia) improved their results on all measures in preparing students for college-level education.
  • Students in many states still do not have the opportunity to take challenging high school courses that could prepare them for college. In North Carolina, 61% of students take at least one upper-level math course; in New Mexico, the percentage is about half that, 31%.
In Participation:
  • Seven states (Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, and South Carolina) improved their performance on all measures in enrolling young adults and working-age adults in college-level education and training.
  • Overall, however, the gains in this area were not as great as in preparation. For instance, from Measuring Up 2000 to Measuring Up 2002, the percentage of high school freshmen enrolling in college within four years increased in Louisiana from 31% to 35%, and in North Carolina from 34% to 40%.
  • In most states, between 40% and 50% of high school freshmen complete high school within four years and then immediately enroll in college.
In Affordability:
  • Eleven states improved their performance on all measures in providing affordable college education to their residents. Most of this progress may well have been lost in recent months, however, as states have responded to revenue shortfalls through steep tuition increases and insufficient investments in student financial aid.
In Completion:
  • Only five states (Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, New Hampshire, and Utah) improved their performance on all measures concerning the timely completion of certificates and degrees. From Measuring Up 2000 to Measuring Up 2002, the proportion of students completing certificates and degrees rose in Alabama from 18 to 24 per 100 undergraduate students, and in Arizona from 14 to 17.
  • In only half of the states do more than 50% of first-year students at community colleges return for their second year.
  • Completion of degrees at four-year colleges and universities is low, even among the top-performing states. In no state do more than 70% of full-time students complete a degree within six years of enrolling in college.
Despite the improvements made by some states and their higher education systems, the benefits of American higher education continues to be unevenly and unfairly distributed, according to the report.

"America's promise is to offer high-quality education and training beyond high school for all who can benefit," Gov. Hunt said. "Measuring Up 2002 shows that this remains a promise unfulfilled-one that requires the sustained attention of state policy leaders."

Measuring Up 2002 evaluates each state's higher education performance by using "A" through "F" grades in:

  • Preparation: How well are students prepared to take advantage of college?
  • Participation: Do state residents enroll in college-level education?
  • Affordability: How affordable is higher education in each state?
  • Completion: Do those who enroll complete their educational goals?
  • Benefits: What economic and civic benefits does each state receive as a result of having a more highly educated population?
The grades in the report card measure each state's performance in relation to other states. All grades are based on quantitative measures of performance rather than on the opinions or judgments of authors or sponsors.

Measuring Up 2002 follows up on the previous, first-of-its-kind Measuring Up 2000 by updating each state's performance and comparing each state's 2002 results with its results two years ago. Measuring Up will be updated again in 2004 and 2006.

Comprehensive, individual profiles of each state, as well as brief "states-at-a-glance" summaries, are also featured in the report. Upon release of the report, state-by-state comparisons and report methodology will be available on the National Center's Web site at www.highereducation.org.

The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education promotes public policies that enhance Americans' opportunities to pursue and achieve a quality higher education. Established in 1998, the National Center is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. It is not associated with any institution of higher education, with any political party, or with any government agency.

Measuring Up 2002 was funded through grants from The Atlantic Philanthropies, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Ford Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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