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Report: States Must Strengthen Higher Education Systems for U.S. to Stay Competitive

A new Education Sector study released Tuesday calls on states to strengthen their higher education systems, if the United States is to remain competitive in the coming decades.

In the study, Ready to Assemble: Grading State Higher Education Accountability Systems, Education Sector researchers Chad Aldeman and policy director Kevin Carey advise states to improve the way they govern and fund higher education, expand access to higher education, create effective accountability standards and set bold goals for achievement.

In 21 categories, ranging from how well states measure student learning outcomes to how well states link accountability information to funding, state higher education systems and their accountability standards are scored. Final grades are based on a range of factors, including accuracy, timeliness, comparability and breadth of information available.

Researchers graded states higher when all institutions reported information consistently than it did for states in which information was reported “idiosyncratically” by only a few.

While some states may excel in a few categories, only 10 states received an overall “Best Practice” rating. Most states earned “In Progress” or “Needs Improvement” scores, highlighting the dearth of comprehensive accountability systems that paint a multidimensional picture of how well colleges and universities are succeeding.

California, Texas, Florida and Oregon were among the states that earned a “Best Practice” rating. South Carolina, Mississippi and Michigan were among those states that needed improvement.

States are accumulating more information about more things in higher education than ever before, say Aldeman and Carey, but no state is gathering all the information that is potentially available.


This year’s report is a follow up to Education Sector’s 2008 study, Ready to Assemble: A Model State Higher Education Accountability System.

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