‘Good’ Higher Ed Performance Not Good Enough

A new higher education report finds that Indiana’s public colleges and universities are performing "relatively well" while generally receiving "average or near average" funding.

Teresa Lubbers, Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education, doesn’t want anyone to be satisfied. Acknowledging that some in the Hoosier state might be content and even ask, "What do you expect?" Lubbers answers with, "I expect a whole lot more than middle of the pack."

The report, Crossing the Starting Line: An Examination of Productivity at Indiana’s Public Colleges and Universities, was prepared by Patrick Kelly of NCHEMS — the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems. It is part of an Indiana Chamber and higher education commission productivity initiative funded by the Lumina Foundation for Education.

"The good news is that Indiana is a frontrunner in tackling this issue," Kelly states. The findings are not "gloom and doom" and he emphasized that more money is not the answer — "it’s not just about increasing resources to improve performance."

Indiana’s public college and university campuses are compared to their national (and largely self-identified) peers. Performance measures are graduation rates within 150% of program time, first-year retention rates and undergraduate credentials per 100 full-time students. The report also emphasizes Indiana’s dramatic underproduction of associate degrees and certificates compared to other states.

Lubbers and Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar both pointed to the big picture, the necessity for more people to earn higher education credentials and linking that to business and workforce needs.

What’s next? Positive steps would include continuing the move toward increased completion and performance-based funding for colleges and universities (Indiana is trying but it’s not an easy path from the traditional state dollars based on the number of students coming through the doors) and improving the entry for older adults into the education system (a focus for Ivy Tech, but one that is critical to businesses and their employees).

The full report, press release, individual campus profiles and additional higher education news and research are available at the Chamber-created Achieve Indiana web site.

Chamber’s New Workforce Development Report Keys In On Existing Problems

We released our new workforce development report, Recommended Policies and Practices for Advancing Indiana’s System of Adult Education and Workforce Training, at a press conference today. Here is the skinny on the findings, which ultimately suggest the state use existing monies, not new, to fund workforce training:

These adults in need of education and training are currently faced with a maze of more than 20 different programs from at least four different providers: the Indiana Department of Education, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration and Ivy Tech Community College. The path the adult learner takes is as much a result of chance encounters as guided by state policy, according to NCHEMS (National Center for Higher Education Management Systems).

“Given our state’s current economic climate and unemployment rates, it’s imperative that we focus on effectively retraining workers sooner rather than later. The Daniels administration has made marked improvements in many areas of state government with its performance measurement approach,” surmises Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar.  “We encourage the governor to now turn the state’s full attention to workforce development and how those programs can better serve the many Hoosiers in need of that assistance.  The measures detailed in this report provide a strong starting point…"

Brinegar emphasizes there is no proposal in this report for new monies.  Instead, the report calls for more strategic use of existing federal funding, and Brinegar advocates the reallocation of unused resources already dedicated to workforce development.

“There is approximately $10 million in funds that employers paid through taxes to the TAG (Training Acceleration Grant) program that was left on the table at the end of 2008.  We believe that money should still be used for what it was intended – workforce training – in one form or another.  The Indiana Chamber is calling on legislators to make sure Hoosiers needing skills enhancements see these dollars,” he stresses.

Read a full summary of the report here, and view the complete 24-page PDF document here.