Defining and Analyzing the Issues
Diagnostic Questions
Compiling the Basic Data
Data Analyses
Creating a Policy Environment for Change
Formulating a Public Agenda
The Higher Education Policy Environment
The Capacity Audit
The Policy Audit
Policy Formulation
Alignment of Policy Tools: Two Examples
No Single Answer
Appendix: Examples of the Presentation of State Data
About the Authors
About the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education

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Page 10 of 17

The Capacity Audit

A capacity audit assesses the capacity of the state higher education system to meet the state priorities and needs that have been articulated. The immediate aim is to determine the size and nature of the mismatch-if any-between the state's priorities and the capacity of the higher education enterprise to reach them. In this context, the concept of "capacity" has both quantitative and qualitative dimensions.

  • Does the system need to serve more students than it can accommodate?
  • Are the missions and aspirations of the institutions poorly aligned with the needs of the state? That is, is there plenty of overall enrollment capacity but not in institutions that are well equipped to serve clients with the highest priority needs? For example, if the data indicate a strong need for associate degrees and there are no public community colleges in the state, that would be an area of mismatch to identify early.
  • Are there gaps in the programs offered in relation to workforce needs?
  • Do prospective students in some parts of the state lack access? Do prospective students in some parts of the state lack access to appropriate programs or kinds of institutions? For example, if adult literacy is low in a region of the state, but the only higher education provider in that region is the flagship research university, that would suggest a mismatch.
  • Is the fiscal capacity of the state clearly insufficient?
No state can afford to make all educational programs directly accessible to all citizens of the state. In effect, the capacity audit provides a "reality check" of the existing institutions in the state and what they do-not what they purport to do. Such data is readily available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Prior to initiating policymaking, a general understanding of these kinds of mismatches must be acquired.



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