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How are postsecondary institutions producing degrees, and how can states use funding as a lever to influence productivity? These are the main questions confronting lawmakers and postsecondary leaders as they consider ways to increase educational attainment and sustain economic growth in their states.

As states and postsecondary systems begin to institute performance accountability models, most are using student progress data to measure areas of institutional effectiveness or deficit. New accountability models hold promise because they:

  • Align state goals and strategies with funding
  • Address attainment gaps by rewarding institutions that enroll, retain, and graduate underserved populations
  • Use funding as a lever to spur innovation; and,
  • Provide a more systemic view of how well the postecondary system is meeting state goals and strategies.

In a joint effort, Complete College America and National Governors' Association developed ten metrics for states to consider when they develop performance systems. The evidence-based metrics relate to:

  • Enrollment and success in remedial education programs
  • Success in first-year college courses
  • Credit accumulation benchmarks (e.g., 15, 30, 60, 90, 120 credit hours)
  • Retention and transfer rates
  • Time and credits to degree

These progress and outcome benchmarks give policymakers greater specificity on how well institutions produce graduates. As legislatures seek greater alignment between postsecondary education and economic development efforts, policymakers should consider workforce metrics, which provide greater guarantee that state colleges and universities are producing graduates in the high-demand fields that local employers require.


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