Universities lauded for accountability
The University of North Carolina Board of Governors receives high marks for its clear organization of statewide accountability data in a new national study that generally finds US universities struggling to maintain their once unquestioned global dominance.
‘“Accountability for Better Results: A National Imperative for Higher Education,’” a report released by the bipartisan National Commission on Accountability in Higher Education on March 10, praises the university system’s board of governors for maintaining ‘“extensive data on the performance of its four-year public institutions,’” and notes that the ‘“Board has added data regarding community colleges and private institution contributions to comprehensive statewide reports.’”
The UNC Board of Governors oversees UNCG, as well as the university’s flagship campus in Chapel Hill and 14 other branches across the state. The other states receiving praise for accountability in higher education were Kentucky, Arizona, Iowa, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota.
The report stresses the need for meaningful accountability measures that will allow universities and colleges to ratchet up their standards of excellence to compete with the education systems of rising industrial powers such as China and India.
‘“Accountability for Better Results’” arrives at the troubling conclusion that the post-World War II assumption that the United States has the finest university system in the world is ‘“under challenge.’”
‘“For the first time in decades the United States no longer leads the developed world in the rate of college completion,’” the report states. ‘“In addition, large developing economies, especially China and India, are successfully educating thousands of scientists and engineers in order to compete in the global economy.’”
The higher education commission ‘— chaired by former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating and former Secretary of Education and former South Carolina Gov. Richard Riley ‘— calls the goal of increasing the number of citizens who graduate from college a ‘“vital national interest.’”
Among the alarms raised by the report:
‘• Minorities and low-income students are the fastest growing segments of university and college student populations ‘— and the least successful;
‘• Only 18 percent of ninth graders graduate from college on time;
‘• State support and federal programs like Pell grants are not keeping pace with enrollment demands and inflation costs.
The report cautions that many accountability systems become meaningless because they contain too much data and there is too little agreement on goals among stakeholders. It recommends that states carry out annual surveys of their workforces to measure overall educational capacity and ability to fill key jobs. Accountability systems should be based on pride rather than fear, and should be widely understood among policymakers, educators and the public, the report says.