The New Normal in Higher Education – Accountability and Performance Measures!

Dear Commons Community,

Greg Johnson, a colleague at Hunter College, has passed on the latest report form the National Governors Association, entitled,   Compete to Complete, From Information to Action:  Revamping Higher Education Accountability Systems.  It calls for a good deal more accountability based on efficient budgeting, performance measures based on data-driven decision making and the possibility for some flexibility from state regulations.  The Executive Summary is below.


Public colleges and universities, which educate the vast majority of the nation’s students, are an important part of states’
economic competitiveness efforts. These institutions face three pressures that will demand increased productivity and a datadriven
investment strategy moving forward:
ƒThe percentage of jobs requiring postsecondary education continues to rise and is expected to reach 63 percent by 2018. At the same time, there is growing evidence of a mismatch between the skill requirements
of new jobs and the skills of individuals seeking them.
ƒState budgets will continue to be squeezed amid slower revenue growth. Competition for resources will intensify, particularly from health care.
ƒThe number of students from groups (e.g., adults, low-income students, and students of color) that have historically enrolled in and completed certificate and degree programs at lower rates continues to grow
as a share of total enrollment.

Increasing productivity in higher education will depend in part on building strong accountability systems that move away from the ones primarily in use today, which tend to emphasize inputs over outcomes and the collection and reporting of data as opposed to using the information in decision-making.

Revamping states’ higher education accountability systems should focus on increasing the use of performance and outcome metrics and then using those metrics to make and evaluate policy decisions, particularly in areas such as budgeting, funding, and regulation.

States should include efficiency and effectiveness metrics in their accountability systems to help answer four key policy
1. To what extent are public higher education institutions meeting the state’s need for an educated workforce and supporting progress toward longer term economic goals?
2. How many students at public institutions are graduating relative to total enrollment?
3. What is the return on states’ and students’ investment in public institutions in terms of completed certificates and degrees?
4. How can public institutions demonstrate that efficiency gains are being achieved without sacrificing student learning?

Several policy options are available for making better use of accountability measures:
ƒBudgeting. Governors can use performance metrics to help set parameters for budget requests and determine priorities for campus and higher education system requests.
ƒFunding. Governors can use performance metrics to allocate a portion of state funding to higher education institutions.
ƒRegulation. Governors can exempt campuses and education systems from specific regulations, such as caps on tuition increases, purchasing and procurement rules, or financial or real estate management policies, in
exchange for achievement on negotiated performance benchmarks.

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