lays out plan
for grading state higher ed
is woefully behind most of the country in evaluating its higher
education systems, and a “culture gap” between legislators
and academics has hampered efforts to do so, argues Nancy Shulock,
director of the Institute for Higher Education Leadership &
Policy at California State University, Sacramento.
Shulock says California needs a clear, statewide perspective on
higher education performance.
There is currently no such “big picture” summary, she
says, and that frustrates both education leaders and legislators.
They’re forced to rely on a collection of reports from the
community colleges and two university systems, along with a book
of indicators from the California Postsecondary Education Commission.
Accountability is particularly important, Shulock says, given the
state’s financial struggles. Policymakers need the best information
they can get in order to make the best use of funds.
“We’ve been too busy looking at each segment of higher
education in isolation, but we haven’t been looking at outcomes
for all the state’s citizens to see who’s getting left
behind and why,” Shulock says. “Legislators and their
staff tell me they don’t have the information they need. And
to get to that, we need the Legislature and higher education to
agree on an accountability approach that both sides see as reasonable
Shulock’s recommendations for a new higher education accountability
system are in her institute’s report for the California Senate
Office of Research. She presented highlights in late January at
a special accountability symposium sponsored by the State Senate
and attended by legislative and educational leaders.
Shulock says a workable higher education accountability system should
measure broad statewide goals such as making educational affordable
and educating enough teachers, while avoiding campus-by-campus comparisons
and micromanagement of colleges and universities. She also argues
that the state should use existing processes to reward performance
rather than adopt performance budgeting formulas that haven’t
worked well in other states.
She suggests using “tiered accountability.” The community
colleges and university systems would create detailed accountability
reports, to be provided to their respective governing boards. These
would include campus data on student learning, academic programs
and graduation rates. Then broad performance data would be “reported
up” to state level policymakers. Campus administrators could
focus on details, and the Legislature on the big picture.
More information is available from the Institute for Higher Education
Leadership & Policy’s website at www.csus.edu/ihe,
or by contacting Shulock at (916) 278-7249. Additional media assistance
is available by contacting CSUS public affairs at (916) 278-6156.