Indiana,Texas and Washington got the best grades for innovation in public four- and two-year institutions.
Alabama,New Hampshire and Vermont were at the bottom of the list,receiving Ds and Fs.
A report by the Institute for a Competitive Workforce,“Leaders & Laggards,” judged states’ in two main categories: innovation and policy environment. The report was released at a conference at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters Tuesday.
The three states praised for their innovations were superior in developing online curricula. Two other states,Florida and Connecticut,improved college accessibility by efficiently informing the public about online programs.
The three lagging states were criticized for having goals that were too broad and not having outcome-based funding
Margaret Spellings,president of the Chamber of Commerce’s Forum on Policy Innovation,said many college students have not gained any significant learning.
“As a result,the lucky few students who beat the odds and manage to graduate are facing skepticism among employers about whether they actually acquired the skills and knowledge necessary for success in the workplace,” Spellings,former secretary of education under President George W. Bush,said.
Indiana was the only state spotlighted in both of the report’s main categories. The state received high marks for its policy environment,along with Ohio and Tennessee. The three states were applauded for their focus on student success rather than the number of students enrolled.
Most states,though,were marked with Cs and Ds and seven received Fs.
Spellings said the nation is falling behind on higher education innovation and colleges need to award an additional 9 million degrees for the U.S. to catch up to leading countries.
“At the Chamber,we hear constantly from our members – the nearly 40 million businesses who employ most of our nation – that they are unable to find the workers they need to sustain their companies and expand our economy,” Spellings said. “Where we were once leaders,now other nations educate more of their young adults to more advanced levels than we do.”
The goal of the study was to identify which states were “laying the ground work for future success,” said the report’s lead researcher,Andrew Kelly,a research fellow at American Enterprise Institute.
He emphasized that the lack of data from some state universities and colleges was a significant obstacle in grading states.
Kelly said the study sought data on student access and success,efficiency and cost-effectiveness,meeting labor market demand,and transparency and accountability.
Florida was the only state to receive an A in the student access and success category at both four- and two-year schools. Along with California and Washington,Florida is listed as a leader of four-year institutions in this category,with North Dakota and South Dakota listed as the leaders at the two-year level.
Susan Pareigis,president of the Florida Council of 100,attributed Florida’s good grades to new policies and task forces that focus on higher education.
“It was refreshing,” Pareigis said of the report’s results,“but I would share with you that we do see some areas where other states are doing some innovative things that Florida will want to look at closer.”
Texas Association of Business President Bill Hammond noted that Texas didn’t lead in any area overall. The state did score well in cost-effectiveness,transparency and accountability at the four-year institution level.
Hammond put the blame on the higher education community.
“We’re investing a lot of money,and the productivity is not there,the return on investment is not there,” Hammond said. “It would be my hope that this report would spur on business and community leaders to urge a higher level of productivity – whether it’s through their local community college or through their legislators.”
He said legislators need to be more critical of the institutions in their districts,rather than being “cheerleaders” for them.
For Thomas Snyder,president of Ivy Tech Community College,which enrolls more than 200,000 students across Indiana,an important realization is the need for businesses and colleges to release data.
He said companies that pay top salaries for positions that require degrees should advertise how much they pay employees,providing an incentive for students to study difficult fields.
High school counselors should also take on the responsibility of relaying data to graduating seniors,but they can’t unless postsecondary institutions give it to them,Snyder said. The public,too,has some responsibility,he said
“We,as parents and grandparents,think we need to send our kids to this brand-name school,when the commuter school like [the University of Texas at] Dallas and some of the more innovative schools or community colleges like Lone Star are of much better value,” Snyder said.
Reach reporter Chelsea Boozer at [email protected] or 202-326-9866. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.