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 5 of 17

Compiling the Basic Data

In grading states on their performance in higher education, Measuring Up 2000 relies on data that were already collected (no new data collection was involved), and that were available for all (or almost all) of the states. The objective was to compare states using common, not idiosyncratic, measuring sticks. In addition, the report card was designed to provide a broad overview of state performance relative to a set of key policy issues, not to provide a mass of in-depth analyses within each state.

These basic design considerations-necessary for making state-by-state comparisons-limited the amount and kinds of data that could be used to evaluate the performance of higher education within each state. As state policymakers seek more detailed information to guide them in shaping higher education policies, however, they need not abide by these national data constraints. All available and appropriate information should be used in the policymaking process. These additional data fall into four categories:

  1. National data that are available in greater detail than provided in Measuring Up 2000. For example, additional information is available concerning the preparation and participation of students by demographic characteristics (particularly gender and race/ethnicity). This kind of data is available for:
    • High school completion (for example, see Appendix, Figures 1 and 2)
    • SAT and ACT scores
    • Participation of young and working-age adults in higher education
    • Degree completion (for example, see Appendix, Figures 1 and 2)
    • Educational attainment (for example, see Appendix, Figures 3 and 4)
  2. Nationally available data that do not measure performance but that do provide important contextual information about higher education in the state, such as:
    • Projected change in the population by demographic characteristics and by county (for example, see Appendix, Figures 5-11)
    • Projected change in number of high school graduates, by race/ethnicity and gender (for example, see Appendix, Figure 12)
    • Proportion of the population with less than a high school education, by demographic characteristics and by county
    • Participation in different institutional sectors (for instance, public/private, two-year/comprehensive/doctoral) by students with different demographic characteristics (for example, see Appendix, Figures 13A, 13B and 13C)
    • The types of institutions that account for student migration into and out of a state or region (for example, see Appendix, Figure 14)
    • The geographic locations and demographic characteristics of the population by socioeconomic status (for example, see Appendix, Figures 15 and 16)
    • The kinds of jobs-by industry and occupation-available in each county (for example, see Appendix, Figure 17)
    In addition, there are data available about crime rates, welfare case loads and other social service demand indicators, typically on a county-by-county basis. The relationships between educational attainment and some of these types of measures can be persuasive in making the case for increasing opportunities for higher education.
  3. Data that are available on a regional or sector basis. For example, the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) collect and analyze important data by region. There are also data available by higher education sector (for instance, for public institutions and research institutions).
  4. Data that are state specific. All states have reams of information that is critical to policymaking but is defined and collected in ways that are not standardized from state to state. In each state, it is necessary to contact the appropriate state agencies to determine the types of data collected and the conventions used. The most useful data include:
    1. K-12 enrollments and numbers of high school graduates. Fall enrollments by grade level are available in almost all states. However, practices differ substantially from state to state for:
      • Reporting numbers of high school graduates.
      • Including data for private high schools.
      • The extent to which projections are made for key indicators, particularly numbers of high school graduates.
      • The aggregation of these data. For states that aggregate data by county, it is easy to compare state information with data compiled by higher education institutions and federal statistical agencies. For states that aggregate information by school district, economic development district, or other entity, it is more difficult-but still possible-to compare state information with that from other entities.
    2. Population projections. Almost all states have their own demographers who extrapolate population data for those years that fall between the ten-year national censuses. However, practices vary considerably as to the level of detail at which these projections are made. The most useful are those that yield estimates of population by age and race/ethnicity within counties.
    3. High school dropouts. Ways of calculating this statistic-as well as the unit of analysis (for instance, by district or county)-differ substantially from state to state.
    4. College retention and graduation rates. Beginning with 2000-01, this information will become more standardized because of updated data collection practices by the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). In addition, however, about half the states have unit record systems that allow calculations to be made for system-level retention and for rates of inter-institutional transfer, as well as for institutional retention and graduation rates. Where these data exist, they represent an important aid to policymaking.
    5. Projections of workforce demand. Most states have agencies-for instance, departments of labor, commerce, or economic development-that prepare workforce demand projections. There is substantial variation, however, in the unit of analysis for which such projections are made. Seldom are they made for individual counties-except in those instances where projections are made for urban counties/metropolitan statistical areas. The most useful information is prepared for planning areas that comprise multiple counties (with counties included in their entirety rather than partially) and that cover the entire state.
    6. Student performance. Increasing numbers of states are implementing statewide testing programs for K-12 education (typically for grades 4, 8, and 11, if not more frequently). Although each state has its own standards and approaches to assessment, all states have information about performance variations across geographic regions of the state, by gender and race/ethnicity. In addition, states collect a variety of data on student achievement in college (whether obtained by test or survey), as well as some data gathered in areas such as employment rate by academic field, and licensure pass rates.


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