Increasing Accountability in American Higher Education
About This Event

For decades, the higher education policy debate in the United States has focused on increasing access to colleges and universities. While this emphasis on access has led to significant gains in enrollment, far less attention has been paid to whether students ever receive a degree. As other industrial democracies have Listen to Audio


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caught up with--and in some cases surpassed--the United States in the percentage of young adults with a college degree, some observers have begun to push for policies that emphasize college completion and create incentives for institutions to better serve their students. Three years after the Spellings Commission called for greater transparency and accountability in American higher education, however, there is still little consensus on how policymakers should reform the postsecondary system to ensure that colleges and universities are held accountable for retaining and graduating their students. This lack of progress reflects both the magnitude of the challenge and the failure of previous efforts to examine how the various pieces of the system—from measurement of student outcomes and data quality to faculty productivity to cost to accreditation and quality control—may facilitate or hinder meaningful accountability.

In response to this challenge, Mark Schneider, visiting scholar at AEI and vice president at the American Institutes for Research, and Kevin Carey, policy director at Education Sector, have commissioned ten pieces of new research, each of which explores elements of the multifaceted accountability equation in higher education. The research highlights how the components of the system fit together and how reformers might rethink current policy and existing institutional arrangements. At this AEI conference, leading higher education researchers and practitioners will present their findings and, together with discussants from across the policy and practitioner community, explore the findings’ implications for designing and implementing effective accountability systems for higher education.

Agenda
Event Summary

WASHINGTON, NOVEMBER 17--While American higher education policy has for decades focused on increasing access to colleges and universities, some observers have begun to push for policies that emphasize college completion and create incentives for institutions to better serve their students. Three years after the Spellings Commission called for greater transparency and accountability in American higher education, however, there is still little consensus on how policymakers should reform the postsecondary system to ensure that colleges and universities are held accountable for retaining and graduating their students.

In response to this challenge, Mark Schneider, visiting scholar at AEI and vice president at the American Institutes for Research, and Kevin Carey, policy director at Education Sector, commissioned ten pieces of new research, each of which explores elements of the multifaceted accountability equation in higher education. The research highlighted how the components of the system fit together and how reformers might rethink current policy and existing institutional arrangements. At an AEI conference on November 17, leading higher education researchers and practitioners presented their findings and, together with discussants from across the policy and practitioner community, explored the findings' implications for designing and implementing effective accountability systems for higher education.

While each participant had their own ideas on how to improve accountability, all agreed on the need to move forward on previous and current efforts to examine various pieces of the system--from measurement of student outcomes and data quality to faculty productivity to cost to accreditation and quality control. 

Links to the presentations are below.

Panel I: Measurement and Accountability

 

Panel II: View from the Professoriate

 

Panel III: Innovation and Accreditation

 

Panel IV: Politics and Accountability

 -- RAPHAEL GANG

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Speaker biographies

Kevin Carey is policy director for Education Sector. In addition to managing Education Sector's policy team, he regularly contributes to the "Quick and the Ed" blog and has published Education Sector reports on topics including a blueprint for a new system of college rankings and improving minority college graduation rates. Mr. Carey has published magazine articles and op-eds in publications including Washington Monthly, The American Prospect, Phi Delta Kappan, Change, Education Week, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, and Christian Science Monitor. He also writes a monthly column on higher education policy for The Chronicle of Higher Education. Previously, Mr. Carey was an analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and director of policy research at the Education Trust.

Judith Eaton is president of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), the largest institutional higher education membership organization in the United States. A national advocate and institutional voice for self-regulation of academic quality through accreditation, CHEA is an association of 3,000 degree-granting colleges and universities. Prior to her work at CHEA, Ms. Eaton served as chancellor of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, where she was responsible for leadership and coordination of thirty-two institutions serving more than 162,000 students statewide. Previously, she was president of the Council for Aid to Education, Community College of Philadelphia, and the Community College of Southern Nevada, and vice president of the American Council on Education. She also has held full- and part-time teaching positions at Columbia University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University. Ms. Eaton currently serves on a range of boards and has authored numerous books and articles on higher education and accreditation topics.

Peter Ewell is vice president of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS). A member of NCHEMS's staff since 1981, Mr. Ewell focuses on assessing institutional and higher education system effectiveness and the outcomes of postsecondary education. He has directed many projects on this topic, including initiatives funded by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, the National Institute for Education, the Consortium for the Advancement of Private Higher Education, the Lumina Foundation, and the Pew Charitable Trusts. In addition, Mr. Ewell has consulted with over 375 colleges and universities and twenty-four state systems of higher education on topics related to performance indicators and the assessment of student learning. He has authored seven books and numerous articles on the topic of improving undergraduate instruction through the assessment of student outcomes.

Stan Jones is the president of the National Consortium for College Completion, a new organization focused on working with states to develop policy that supports increased completion of college degrees, especially for underrepresented youth. Previously, Mr. Jones served in the Indiana State Legislature for sixteen years, worked as a senior adviser to Indiana governor Evan Bayh for over five years, and as Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education for twelve years. He is credited as a primary architect of several landmark education policy initiatives, including the 21st Century Scholars program, a scholarship program aimed at increasing the number of low-income students attending and completing a postsecondary education; the development of Indiana's new community college system; the creation of Indiana's Education Roundtable; and the implementation of Core 40, a college prep curriculum that has contributed to a significant increase in the percentage of Indiana's high school seniors who go on to college.

Charlotte Kuh is deputy executive director of the Policy and Global Affairs Division in the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences. She also serves as director of the National Research Council's Assessment of Research Doctorate Programs. She oversees the Board on Higher Education and Workforce, which is responsible for studies conducted by the NRC concerned with flows of science and engineering talent, graduate education, and its assessment. Before coming to the NRC, she was director of the Graduate Record Examinations at the Educational Testing Service, where she initiated the first computerization of a national admissions test and a program of research designed to introduce measurement of a broader range of student talents for use in graduate admissions. Ms. Kuh has served on the faculties of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Stanford University and currently serves on the board of the American Council of Learned Societies after being its treasurer for six years.

Bridget Terry Long is professor of education and economics at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her work focuses on college access and choice, factors that influence student outcomes, and the behavior of postsecondary institutions. Ms. Long's current and past projects examine the role of information and simplification in college decisions, the effects of financial aid programs, and the impact of postsecondary remediation on student outcomes. She is also a faculty research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research and a research affiliate of the National Center for Postsecondary Research. She has received the National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship, was named one of the "New Voices" in higher education by The Chronicle of Higher Education, and was awarded the Robert P. Huff Golden Quill Award for excellence in research and published works on student financial assistance.

Lawrence Martin is at Stony Brook University, where he is dean of the graduate school, associate provost, director of the Turkana Basin Institute, and professor of anthropology and anatomical sciences. He is also the founder and president of Academic Analytics, LLC, which produces for university clients an annual database on faculty scholarly productivity. Mr. Martin has analyzed faculty productivity data from the National Research Council's Research Doctorate Programs in the United States: Continuity and Change (National Academies Press, 1995) to determine which variables serve as useful predictors of a program's reputation. He served on the Scholarly Advisory Board for the Association of American Universities' Assessment of Quality of University Education and Research project and was a member of the National Research Council's Committee to Study the Methodology for the Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs.

Geri Malandra is the principal of Malandra Consulting, LLC and is a consultant specializing in accountability, strategic management, and leadership development in public higher education systems. She has presented testimony to the Texas legislature and federal bodies and speaks nationally and internationally on issues of accountability, performance measurement, and institutional improvement. Ms. Malandra is a senior fellow with the American Council on Education, where she previously served as senior vice president. She earlier served as vice chancellor for strategic management for the fifteen-campus University of Texas System, where, from 2002 to 2009, she led the development and implementation of the system's first comprehensive accountability and performance reporting framework. She has served as an adviser on accountability to the U.S. secretary of education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education and served as vice chair of the U.S. Department of Education's National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, which oversees accreditation in the United States. Ms. Malandra has also been associate provost at the University of Minnesota, where she led the creation of the university's first integrated accountability report.

Charles Miller recently served as chairman of the secretary of education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education. He is the former chairman of the University of Texas System Board of Regents. During his tenure as chairman, Mr. Miller took the lead in developing better higher education accountability systems to be matched with deregulation and institutional autonomy. He also fostered strategies to generate significant increases in research funding, enrollment, patient care, private contributions, and tuition revenues, all while increasing financial aid. Mr. Miller has had a long-standing interest in education and served as chairman of the Texas Education Policy Center, which designed the public school accountability system for Texas. He also served as chairman of the Education Committee of the Governor's Business Council during former president George W. Bush’s term as governor of Texas and was a member of the Bush-Cheney Transition Team. Mr. Miller is chairman emeritus of the board of directors of the Greater Houston Partnership and has been very active in civic, business, and educational organizations.

Anne Neal is a founder and the president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA). She has authored or coauthored numerous ACTA studies, authored a chapter in the volume Reforming the Politically Correct University (AEI Press, 2009), and directed higher education programs for the Philanthropy Roundtable. She regularly gives lectures and expert testimony, with past venues including the U.S. Senate, the Foreign Policy Association, the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, and the U.S. Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education. Before joining ACTA, Ms. Neal served as a First Amendment and communications lawyer and as general counsel and congressional liaison of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Naomi Riley is the deputy editor of the Wall Street Journal's "Taste" page. Prior to joining the Journal, she was the editor of In Character, as well as an adjunct fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Her articles and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Commentary, The Public Interest, and First Things. In January 2005, Ms. Riley published God on the Quad: How Religious Colleges and the Missionary Generation Are Changing America (St. Martin's, 2005). She is currently writing a book on the future of tenure and the academic labor market.

Gary Rhoades is the general secretary of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). Prior to joining AAUP, Mr. Rhoades was a professor of higher education at the University of Arizona and director of the university's Center for the Study of Higher Education. His research focuses on professions in academe, university restructuring, and science and technology issues in higher education. Mr. Rhoades has worked at the local, regional, and national levels with the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, as well as with the AAUP. Mr. Rhoades is the former president of the Association for the Study of Higher Education. He is the author of Managed Professionals: Unionized Faculty and Restructuring Academic Labor (SUNY Press, 1998) and Academic Capitalism and the New Economy with Sheila Slaughter (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004). He is currently working on two books, one on strategic positioning in higher education and the other on academic unions.

Mark Schneider is a vice president for new education initiatives at the American Institutes for Research and a visiting scholar at AEI. From 2005 to 2008, Mr. Schneider served as the commissioner of the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics and as deputy commissioner from 2004 to 2005. Previously, Mr. Schneider was a professor, department chairman, and director of graduate studies in the political science department of Stony Brook University. He is the author and coauthor of numerous scholarly books and articles, including, Charter Schools: Hope or Hype (Princeton University Press, 2007) with Jack Buckley and the award-winning Choosing Schools: Consumer Choice and the Quality of American Schools (Princeton University Press, 2000).

Burck Smith is the cofounder and former CEO of SMARTHINKING, the largest online tutoring provider for high schools and colleges. Founded in 1999, SMARTHINKING serves nearly 250,000 students per year. In 2008, Mr. Smith launched StraighterLine, a division of SMARTHINKING that offers affordable credit-bearing online general education courses directly to students. Prior to founding SMARTHINKING, he provided consulting services to a variety of technology and education companies including Microsoft, the Computer Curriculum Corporation, the CEO Forum on Education and Technology, the Milken Exchange on Education and Technology, Teaching Matters Inc., Converge Magazine, and several start-up companies. Mr. Smith has written about education and technology for Wired Magazine, Wired News, Converge Magazine, University Business, and the National School Boards Association.

Jeffrey Steedle is a measurement scientist at the Council for Aid to Education, where he manages research and development projects and assists in operational aspects of administering the Collegiate Learning Assessment. His research interests include value-added modeling, diagnostic assessment, psychometrics, and science education. Previously, Mr. Steedle was a high school physics teacher. He currently teaches item response theory as an adjunct assistant professor at New York University.

Ben Wildavsky is a senior fellow in research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation and a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of The Great Brain Race: How Global Universities are Reshaping the World (Princeton University Press, May 2010). Prior to his work at the Kauffman Foundation, Mr. Wildavsky spent eighteen years as a writer and editor specializing in education and public policy. Most recently he was education editor of U.S. News & World Report, where he was the top editor of America's Best Colleges and America's Best Graduate Schools and oversaw several award-winning cover stories. Previously, he was economic policy correspondent for National Journal, higher education reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, and executive editor of The Public Interest. As a consultant to national education reformers, Mr. Wildavsky has written and edited several influential reports, including the final report of the Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education.

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