Since the development of the 1990 National Education Goals, the federal government has encouraged higher education to demonstrate the capacities of college graduates to communicate, solve problems, and think critically.

Due to a lack of common benchmarks to compare student learning outcomes across states, Measuring Up 2000, the first state-by-state report card on higher education performance, gave all states an 'Incomplete' in the category of learning.

Shortly after the release of Measuring Up, the National Center convened an invitational forum of public-policy, education, and business leaders to examine how student learning could be measured at the state-level. Between 2002 and 2004, the National Forum on College-Level Learning piloted the newly developed assessment model in five states, demonstrating that providing comparative state-by-state information is not only feasible, but also important and useful for policy.

The 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act mandated that K–12 education demonstrate its commitment to standards and educational equity through evidence of learning. Now a similar demand is beginning to be felt in higher education, particularly since recently released results of the National Assessment of Adult Literacy survey have shown that certain measures of American college graduate literacy have decreased significantly over the last decade.

Most recently, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings' Commission on the Future of Higher Education has been discussing how higher education might be held accountable for its results. In a 2006 memo to the commissioners, Chairman Charles Miller pointed to the National Forum's project as evidence that those results can be measured in a cost-effective, minimally intrusive way.

For more information on the National Forum, visit


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