New Report: State Accountability Systems Not Aligned with Goals and Missions of Community Colleges
- Paper Examines How Statewide Higher Education Accountability Systems Treat Community Colleges
Washington, D.C., May 30, 2006—As more states demand that public colleges and universities demonstrate an effective use of taxpayer dollars, statewide accountability systems must find ways to incorporate the diverse missions and special challenges of community colleges, according to a new paper that focuses on eight key states.
The new working paper, MAKING ACCOUNTABILITY WORK: Community Colleges and Statewide Higher Education Accountability Systems, was prepared by researchers at the Institute for Higher Education Policy in Washington, DC, and points out that the way in which community colleges are handled in most statewide accountability systems is not likely to provide state policymakers with the kind of information they need to identify viable options and make effective choices to meet state performance goals for higher education.
Jamie Merisotis, President of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, said, “The current national debate about accountability and transparency in higher education has largely left out the key issue of whether or not these systems are appropriate for community colleges. This working paper serves as a valuable addition to the debates about accountability occurring in states across the nation and will help to inform national discussions about how such systems might be linked to one another to meet national goals.”
The paper focuses on eight states—California, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, Texas, and Washington—chosen because they have both strong networks of community colleges and an established or developing statewide accountability system . The paper evaluates these accountability systems to determine whether and how the states address the unique situation of community colleges.
While the authors found several “hopeful developments” among those eight states, they also found a number of areas where there is room for improvement. The paper suggests that:
- There is a new emphasis on establishing statewide goals for higher education and on collecting accountability data directly related to those goals.
- Many states are not measuring the extent to which underrepresented students have access to the state’s community colleges.
- Mission-specific measures are few and do not fully represent the wide range of educational services provided through community colleges.
- Measures of student success that emphasize completions and transfer to four-year institutions do not take into account the varying goals of community college students.
- None of the accountability systems reviewed adequately recognized the limited resources available to the state’s community colleges or their effective use.