The logical place to begin a supplementary analysis of Measuring Up 2000 is to give a broad perspective of the data. The report card shows individual state performance; this analysis starts by summarizing regional and national averages by report card category. Table 1 shows the report card grade averages by region. State regional classifications are listed in Appendix A. These regional classifications are used by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, and can be referenced in their publication, Knocking at the College Door. The national average for all states is also shown in Table 1.
The Northeast has the highest average total for all report card grades, but the Northcentral region is clearly the most balanced region in terms of higher education performance across report card categories. In every category, the Northcentral region's performance is equal to or above the national average. The Northeastern region substantially outperforms the national average on every category except affordability. In this area, it substantially under performs.
The Southern and Western regions fall below the total national average, though each outperforms the national average in at least one area. Affordability in the South and West are above the national average. The Western region also outperforms the national average on benefits.
The tabular results of report card averages allow some questions to surface, since regional and national averages can be seen simultaneously. The ideal position seems to be that held by the Northcentral region, while every other region has significant performance weaknesses in comparison to the national averages. This raises some important questions that further data analysis may be able to inform: Is there wide variation within regions? What are the relationships between specific report card categories? Does examination of a relationship between report card categories inform policy alternatives? Are there tradeoffs between grades? To begin examining these questions, a graphical presentation of regional data concludes this section. Subsequent sections provide further insight.
A GRAPHICAL LOOK AT REGIONAL DATA
Measuring Up 2000 gives national graphical data on the five report card categories utilizing color codes and a U.S. map to display state grades by category (pp. 18-23). Figure 1 presented here displays in graph form all state preparation grades-in the form of index scores-by region. The line in Figure 1 connects the mean values of each region. The graphic is not intended to communicate specific state grades but rather trends, variations, and comparisons among and between regions. The graphic also has the advantage of displaying the grade dispersion by region. Abbreviations could easily be inserted into the graphic so that each data point contains an associated state, but then the graphic becomes rather cluttered. Section IV will highlight specific state placement and comparisons to national and regional results.
The Northeastern and Northcentral states have higher preparation scores on average than the Southern and Western states. Northeastern and Northcentral states also show less variation in preparation scores than the Southern and Western regions. In the Western region, for example, the state of Utah earned a score of 100 on preparation while New Mexico earned a 62 (a 38 point difference). A separate line connecting the median values would have looked very similar to the line connecting mean values in Figure 1, but the entire line would have shifted downward slightly.
The average scores on participation by region closely follow the pattern for preparation. On average, the Northeast region has the highest participation rates in the nation, followed closely by the Northcentral region. Only three Southern states received participation grades above a C- or score of 70 (see Figure 2).
Figure 3 reveals wide variation in affordability scores within individual regions. In the Western region, there was a 39 point difference between the top performing state, California, and the lowest performing states, Montana and Oregon. Affordability was the only report card category for which the Northeastern region fell below the national average.
In Figure 4, we see that on average, the Northeast region has the highest completion rates in the nation, followed by the Northcentral region. This was similarly the case for preparation and participation. The Southern region has a higher completion average than the Western region, largely because two Western states fell below 60.
Figure 5 indicates that the Western region derived more benefits from higher education than any other region other than the Northeast. Also, benefits scores varied widely within regions. Within the Northeast, for instance, Maryland scored 110 while Maine scored only 73. As with most other report card categories, the Northcentral states showed the least amount of variation and, as a region, once again scored above the national average.