Download PDF File 47KB
The New Economic
The Public
Policy Challenge
to Educational
Accountability: Toward
Educational Outcomes
Changes in the
Governance and
Public Finance of
Changes in
Policy Orientation

home   about us   news   reports   crosstalk   search   links    

Page 5 of 7

  Changes in the Governance and Public Finance of Education

Information gained through improved reporting and tracking systems, while necessary, is insufficient for increasing educational capital. Other policy changes, particularly in the governance and financing of higher education, must parallel new information and accountability systems. These policies are likely to look very different across the country, for each state's configuration of higher education is unique. Within every state, however, policies in two critical areas should change simultaneously to support the development of multiple pathways: governance and finance.

Governance and Decision Making

New structural arrangements to support the development of educational capital will be needed, particularly for focusing on developing multiple pathways. Existing structural and decision-making arrangements in higher education focus heavily on single-sector issues. In some instances, the separate community college and state university sectors developed after World War II to differentiate responsibilities and missions may inhibit cooperation and collaboration. Some reform efforts have treated the elements of the education system (e.g., high schools) as "trains on their own track." And many existing K-12 and higher education partnerships have little long-term viability: they lack ongoing financial support because they are voluntary; they lack stable funding bases; and they depend almost entirely on episodic leadership initiatives.

Examples of particularly successful initiatives, both dependent upon committed local leadership and foundation support to link K-12 and higher education, are found in El Paso, Texas, and in Georgia. Both are voluntary. The Texas initiative has produced concrete evidence of increases in student achievement, while the Georgia initiative holds the same promise for the future (National CrossTalk 1999).

  • The El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence, a partnership that includes the University of Texas-El Paso, El Paso Community College, the three largest school districts in the area, and local business and civic leaders, has effectively documented how powerful the educational linkage concept can be. The collaborative involves education, business, and civic leaders in school-based, data-driven systems change. During the first three years, 60 percent of fifth graders in one of the poorest elementary schools participating in the collaborative (qualifying for the federal lunch program) passed the reading portion of the state-mandated Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TASS), but three years later 94 percent passed. Similarly, the pass rate for fifth graders on mathematics exam jumped from 74 percent to 92 percent during the same time period. Findings such as these are common among schools in the collaborative.

    Founded by Susana Navarro and based at the University of Texas, El Paso campus, the collaborative has an annual budget of about $5 million, coming from private philanthropies and the federal government. The organization's board of directors includes superintendents of the three participating school districts, the president of El Paso Community College, the mayor of El Paso, and other business, civic, and religious leaders. The 25 core staff members primarily work with districts, schools, parents, and business. They provide professional development for teachers as well as on-site support for teachers and principals. They also provide businesspeople with opportunities to learn about schools and identify ways employers can help youth achieve. In addition, about 45 teachers and administrators on the collaborative staff work in schools to support school and district improvement.

  • Georgia has developed a somewhat different approach from El Paso in trying to link the various education sectors. The Georgia P-16 (preschool through college) initiative is an attempt to improve student achievement by addressing the scattered pieces of the whole education picture. The project includes business leaders, representatives from the University System of Georgia, the K-12 Department of Education, local school boards, the 33 technical school departments, and other state agencies. Each of 15 regional P-16 councils identifies state policies that further fragment the overall education system and tries to create change through established governing channels.

    Creating standards-both content and benchmarks for testing-is perhaps the most important task assigned to the regional councils. Georgia higher education leaders note that for the first time in their careers, professors and deans from fields such as history, physics, and literature are meeting with their counterparts in education schools and with public school representatives to work out the proper balance between subject-matter knowledge and instructional methodology. Since its inception, P-16 councils have addressed issues of block scheduling in the schools, the logical sequencing of math curricula, and other issues.

Both of these initiatives show that the interest and capacity to develop effective links between K-12 and higher education exist, but they also show the fragility of such efforts if leadership changes or foundation support disappears. The need to sustain and develop other partnerships requires attention to the state policy infrastructure.

As with accountability systems, there is no universally applicable formula for collaboration among, and linkages between, disparate educational entities, but there are structural approaches that encourage the development of educational capital through multiple pathways. Moreover, current decision-making and governance bodies in higher education, and to some extent, in K-12 education, are focused inwardly-that is, on the policies of single institutions or sectors-and overlook the linkages between levels and sectors, and the transitions that students must negotiate. The most likely effective structures: (1) feature an ongoing stakeholders' forum for advocating the educational health of the entire population, rather than one specific part of it; (2) rely on cross-institutional initiatives and funding (schools with colleges, community colleges with other public and private colleges and universities, and all educational institutions with business and civic efforts to improve education); and (3) have the ability to change policies, such as those inhibiting allocation and reallocation of resources.

We are not aware of a governing structure for K-12 and higher education that has resulted thus far in significant increases in student achievement or the creation of multiple pathways. The most visible statewide change toward this end occurred when Florida Governor Jeb Bush attempted to create an effective K-16 model of governance through a single state board with responsibility for all levels of education, while at the same time decentralizing significant authority to colleges and universities. In November 2002, however, the voters of Florida reestablished a statewide governing board for higher education. The jury is still out on the lessons that can be derived from Florida's "reform" and "counter reform."

Some state structures for higher education governance have been found to be more effective than others at raising issues of public interest that transcend institutional and sector interests. Illinois' "system of systems" has long been highly regarded and studied for its effective balance of issues related to the public interest with issues of institutional quality and diversity. That state's historically strong commitment to college access through student financial aid programs (current changes notwithstanding) reflects the public priority on financial aid for students, as well as appropriations to public institutions. Illinois has made the largest state commitment to providing financial aid for low-income students, as measured by federal Pell grant recipients also receiving a state grant. Its decision-making bodies, particularly the Illinois Board of Higher Education and its leadership in the "system of systems," are credited with this important outcome.

Higher education systems that are more highly "segmented," such as those in California or Michigan, are least capable of providing a forum to focus policies on public-interest issues beyond those of particular colleges and universities. While there are almost no commonalties in the decision-making structures of organization of these two states, each lacks an effective forum for addressing the broad public interest. Issues are framed either in terms of educational sectors, as in California, or in terms of individual institutions, as in Michigan. Systems that are highly segmented appear to lack capacity to systematically embrace the agenda for greatly increasing educational attainment through multiple pathways on a statewide scale.12

The Allocation and Reallocation of Resources

Public subsidies must be explicitly aligned with the goal of increasing educational capital. Specifically, financial incentives should encourage the creation of multiple pathways. Community colleges will play a critical role in the expansion of educational capital-both for young and working-age adults. At the intersection of high school learning and postsecondary education, they are the primary institutions for adult education in America. Community colleges take on greater teaching loads, enroll more students, and provide more remedial and developmental education than other sectors of higher education.

State finance policies to utilize community colleges more effectively are needed. Two examples:

  • Utah provides financial incentives for students who are ready to pursue college-level work while in high school. In the New Century Scholarship Program, eligible high school students earn an Associate of Arts or Science degree by the fall following high school graduation. The scholarship pays for up to 75 percent of tuition at state institutions, and students must maintain a "B" average in college-level work. Although Utah's innovative program offers incentives to the college-ready student and improves the educational productivity for those students, it does not, nor was it intended to, address the broader educational achievement needed from all students.

  • Another innovative example of fast-tracking education for the college-ready is Washington's Running Start program. Without cost to the students, it allows eleventh and twelfth graders to take college courses at Washington's 34 community and technical colleges and Washington State, Eastern Washington, and Western Washington universities. The initiative reduces both the amount of time students spend in school and their college costs. According to state officials, in 2000-2001, students and parents saved $14.6 million in tuition and taxpayers saved $28.8 million because students take high school and college courses simultaneously. That same year, nearly 14,000 students participated in the program. Participants closely mirror the typical college population in the state as a whole (Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges 2001).

Utah and Washington provide financial incentives primarily to students and families. Changes in the state allocation for higher education must also become a part of the new policy infrastructure. If increasing the educational capital of the population becomes a central consideration in financing higher education, the institutions that can contribute most to this agenda must be funded adequately. Yet community colleges receive fewer resources for their instructional task on a per-student basis than do four-year colleges. Most states could benefit from a better understanding of how public higher education subsidies are allocated in relation to specific state policy goals and priorities. Scholarship programs such as those in Utah and Washington do not address, nor are they intended to, the question of adequate public subsidy to the institutions most called upon to increase the achievement of most adults. However, they do provide a way to get more education from every dollar spent-a necessary condition for greatly improving student achievement.

Adults who choose to increase their knowledge and skills will benefit economically from this investment and should be willing to share the responsibility of paying for it. A caveat: the adult who lacks a high school education is least likely to be able to pay his or her share. Until that basic level is achieved, little economic return is provided, and the responsibility for this basic level of education should rest with taxpayers. At increasing levels of education, a strategy of shared responsibility can be implemented, with individuals contributing more at the higher levels.

In California, a model of shared responsibility proposed to increase tuition at moderate and predictable levels but at a lower rate for community colleges, which serve the most economically disadvantaged students, and at increasingly high levels for the California State University and the University of California, which tend to serve higher-income students (California Higher Education Policy Center 1996). The model of shared responsibility, while differentiating the shares paid by different groups of students, also required increased investment of the state for educating far more students but more cost-effectively than in the past. The model also called for dramatic increases in institutional productivity through, for example, better use of facilities, faculty, and student time.

If the states and the nation are to serve more people through postsecondary education, cost effectiveness will be a necessity. Education must be affordable for states just as it must be for students and families. Public policy should encourage better use of time (including student time), better use of space (facilities sharing, greater use of existing campuses and facilities), and the cost-effective use of electronic technology. For example, a recently completed study of technology in higher education examined the 25 most common, high-demand courses students take early in their college experience. The researchers found that incorporating technology into course design as a substitute for some lectures and sections reduced costs while maintaining, and in come cases improving, the quality of student learning (Twigg 2002).

12 For an expanded discussion of governance see Richardson, Bracco, Callan, and Finney 1999.


National Center logo
© 2003 The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education

HOME | about us | center news | reports & papers | national crosstalk | search | links | contact

site managed by NETView Communications