‘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.

Lubbers to Talk Education With Chamber Members

Who has been among the most influential lawmakers on K-12 education issues over the past 17 years? Who will be guiding the state’s crucial higher education efforts? The answer to both is Teresa Lubbers, former state senator and current Commissioner of Higher Education.

Lubbers will address education issues at all levels in the August 21 Policy Issue Conference Call with Indiana Chamber members. The free hourlong event (9:30-10:30 EDT) will feature commentary from Lubbers and Chamber education expert Derek Redelman, along with your questions.

Longtime chair of the Senate Education Committee, Lubbers has been at the forefront of various education initiatives since first being elected in 1992. Her legislative duty closed with the end of the special session, which featured major K-12 successes as part of the budget bill.

Lubbers, the 1998 Chamber Government Leader of the Year, assumed the Commission for Higher Education role after longtime leader Stan Jones departed for a new position in Washington. Working with both public and independent colleges and universities, the Commission coordinates planning and budgeting for higher education in the state. Its Reaching Higher blueprint (read a 2008 BizVoice story here) is focused on new and revised initiatives.

Chamber members, register today for the August 21 call.

A Big Day on the Education Front

Ask Indiana business men and women what the state needs to do better and sooner (often first on the list) rather than later the topic will be: improve the education of our young people. Two developments Friday were good news:

  • Current State Sen. Teresa Lubbers was unanimously chosen this morning as the next Commissioner of Higher Education. She will assume that role once the legislative special session ends. Lubbers was one of the first members of the General Assembly I had a chance to interview as she was awarded the Chamber’s Government Leader of the Year award in 1998. In working on that story, and in dealing with her on subsequent legislative topics and education initiatives, Lubbers has always been straightforward and simply dedicated to getting the job done. She has endured staunch opposition at times in the K-12 arena, but I’m confident she will partner with other innovative thinkers at the higher ed level to move Indiana forward.
  • Later in the morning, the first class of Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellows was introduced in the governor’s office. The Fellows (59 of them will be attending Purdue, IUPUI and UIndy; Ball State will also be part of the program in future years) receive a $30,000 stipend to complete a master’s program. In exchange, they commit to three years of teaching in high-need schools in both urban and rural communities. This first class focuses on the hard-to-find math and science teachers with nearly all holding a STEM (science, technology, engineering or mathematics) degree.

In addition to putting highly qualified and talented professionals (both recent grads and those with years of workplace experience) in the classroom, one of the best things about this effort is that Indiana is first in the country for this Wilson fellowship program. Both Gov. Mitch Daniels and Wilson Foundation President Arthur Levine used the words "Rhodes Scholars of teaching" in their remarks.

In Indianapolis, public television station WFYI will be producing a documentary, following the Fellows through the learning process and into the classroom. We look forward to the story as it unfolds — and the benefits for Indiana students for years to come.

The Wilson Foundation has the details.

Women Making Moves in Indiana Government

Shortly after the election, I wrote this post about how women now make up the majority of New Hampshire state senators.

Now, Brian Howey has this piece that explains how women are playing a major role in the Indiana legislature, as well:

Last week, Simpson appointed Sen. Earline Rogers of Gary (from lower left) as whip, Sen. Connie Sipes of New Albany as caucus chair, and Jean Breaux of Indianapolis as assistant caucus chair. They join Republican Majority Floor Leader Connie Lawson of Danville, Assistant President Pro Tempore Sue Landske of Cedar Lake and Assistant Majority Floor Leader Teresa Lubbers of Indianapolis who joined the leadership team of President Long in 2006. After President Robert Garton was defeated in the May 2006 Republican primary, it was a block of Republican women who threw their support behind Long and essentially clinched the top Senate job for the Fort Wayne Republican. He subsequently opened the gates to leadership for women. Simpson of Ellettsville was able to wrest the Senate Minority Leader post away from Sen. Richard Young last month. It came in a year when Hoosiers nominated Jill Long Thompson as its first major party gubernatorial nominee while U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton became the first woman to win the Indiana presidential primary. In 2003, Lt. Gov. Kathy Davis became the first female in state history to hold an executive branch office.