The National Center's report card on higher education will compare state
performance in higher education because it is at the state level that the most significant
public policies regarding higher education are made. Although subsequent report cards
may expand the area of inquiry, the initial report card will emphasize the traditional
guiding values of state policy for education at the baccalaureate and sub-baccalaureate
levels: the opportunity to seek and successfully achieve high-quality education and
training beyond high school. Performance outcome measures will take into account
two- and four-year, public and private institutions in order to reflect the full
range of choices available to those seeking education and training beyond high school.
In each major area of performance, states will be graded in comparison with the highest-performing
states -- a method that emphasizes best performance and establishes high, yet achievable
standards of performance.
The report card will be prepared and released regularly, with the first release
in fall 2000, and with subsequent releases either annually or biannually.
The National Center has been advised about the feasibility of comparing state
performance in higher education by an independent Report Card Feasibility Study Committee
(see appendix). Two additional types of independent review are in process: Technical
Review by independent scholars and organizations; and Policy Review by
a national advisory committee appointed by the National Center (see
The initial report card will include two major sections, one that summarizes state-by-state
performance results within a national context, and one that provides detailed information
on each state's results. Each state will be graded on its performance in several
key categories. In each category, the state will be given a grade based on its performance
relative to that of the top-performing states. The heart of the report card lies
in these performance categories for which grades are given.
The initial report card will examine opportunity and achievement for education
and training through the bachelor's degree, since these are aspects of higher education
policy: (1) over which each state has substantial policy influence; (2) for which
there are sufficient data to compare state performance; and (3) which represent traditional
state goals of broad access and high attainment. All the performance categories will
draw attention to what is, and should be, known about performance.
The categories and their defining questions are:
- Preparation. How well does the state prepare students to be eligible for
and to benefit from opportunities for education beyond high school?
- Participation. How well does the state perform in providing opportunities
for enrollment in postsecondary education?
- Affordability. How affordable is higher education for students and their
- Persistence and Completion. How well do students persist toward and complete
certificates and degrees?
- Educational Gains and Returns. What are the economic, civic and social
benefits that accrue to a state as a result of a more highly educated population?
Grades for each performance category are determined by each state's scores on
quantitative indicators. The indicators will reflect the defining questions listed
above and will be based on data that allow fair and accurate comparisons over the
The report card will ask what states know about the extent to which students learn
from their education and training beyond high school. State results will also be
provided but not graded in areas such as cost effectiveness, equity, and change over
time -- information that can help provide a context for the graded areas of state
performance. In addition, a "Facts and Figures" section will display information
about the state's demography and economy, and the organization and funding of its
higher education system.
The project's ultimate success depends upon engaging state policy leaders
with the policy issues raised by their state's performance in higher education. After
the release of the report card, the National Center will assist individual states
-- at their request and to the extent feasible -- as they interpret the report card
and seek to identify effective policy options. This follow-up includes assisting
states in assessing their performance ranges within the state -- in different regions,
for instance, or in relation to subpopulations.