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More Transparency Needed on Postsecondary Performance and Outcomes, Report Finds

The Institute for a Competitive Workforce (ICW), part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, released last week the latest in its Leaders and Laggards series that examines the performance and policy of public postsecondary institutions.

The report grades state performance and policy on six areas:

1)      Student Access and Success
2)     Efficiency and Cost-Effectiveness
3)     Meeting Labor Market Demand
4)     Transparency and Accountability
5)     Policy Environment
6)     Innovation

The ICW Web site features a state-by-state report card showing how states measure up in each of the six areas. Findings from the report show that:

Four-Year Completion Rates: In most states, only half of students at four-year public colleges complete a degree; in 17 states, less than half of all first-time bachelors-seeking students complete a degree within six years.

Two-Year Completion Rates: Only one state has a two-year college statewide graduation rate above 50 percent, while more than half of states have a two-year completion rate at or below 25 percent. In 13 states, less than 15 percent of students who started at a two-year college graduated within 150 percent of the normal time to degree.

Cost of Postsecondary Education: Thirty-three states spend over $50,000 in education and related expenses per two-year college credential, and 13 spend more than $65,000.

Linking Postsecondary Data to Labor Market: Only 22 states have systems in place to track the success of graduates once they enter the labor force and to make those data public. Only four states allow prospective students and taxpayers to compare labor market outcomes across institutions and programs.

Comparing Postsecondary Outcomes Across States: Just four states measure and make public student outcomes in a way that is comparable across states, making it difficult for states and individuals to see if their investments in postsecondary education are paying off.

Overall, most states have not yet developed ways to measure and make public the quality of their postsecondary institutions and programs. Though several states have made visible improvements, most still fall short of providing the comprehensive data and transparency needed to strengthen state policies and improve public postsecondary education.

The authors of the report make several broad recommendations for reform at the state level.

View the entire report: Leaders and Laggards: A State-by-State Report Card on Public Postsecondary Education.

Kara Herbertson, Education Policy Analyst

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