Campus: CSU Sacramento -- February 19, 2003
Institute Lays Out Plan For Grading State Higher
California 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
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 and fair.”
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.