Ready to Assemble: A Model State Higher Education Accountability System
Kevin Carey and Chad Aldeman
Education Sector, 2008
Today’s colleges and universities are plagued by a host of problems that have proven as lasting as the institution of higher education itself: At a time when college degrees are increasingly a prerequisite for middle-class wages, less than 40 percent of college students are able to demonstrate proficiency on literacy tests, barely half of college students graduate on time, and many don’t graduate at all.1 Meanwhile, the price of college is growing by leaps and bounds. To address these problems, colleges and universities need to pay far more attention to the core task of educating their students well.
But higher education has surprisingly few incentives to provide an affordable, high-quality education to all students. Funding is based on how many students enroll, not how many graduate. Prestige is tied to how smart students are when they begin as freshmen, not how much they learn before they leave. Fame, wealth, and research prowess contribute far more to institutional status than student learning. If these incentives don’t change, colleges won’t change either. As a result, policymakers who want to fix the many problems of American higher education need to gather much more information about college student outcomes, release the results to consumers and the general public, create explicit, mission-driven performance goals for institutions, and financially reward colleges and universities that excel. In other words, policymakers need to create stronger accountability systems..”