Friday, December 01, 2000

Low marks for higher ed


Report says Ohio, Kentucky could do more for colleges

By Ben L. Kaufman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Ohio and Kentucky do a mediocre job of providing higher education, according to a national report card sent home Thursday by the new National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

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        Those states don't do much better at preparing students, the center's first biennial report added.

        Ohio received a C average on five key criteria; Kentucky, D+. No state received straight As.

        Post-secondary education and training were rated on five criteria for which states have primary responsibility:

        • Preparation: How K-12 readied residents for college-level work.

        • Participation: Opportunities for higher education.

        • Affordablity: Types of colleges and universities, family costs and financial aid.

        • Completion: Graduation from one- and two-year certificate programs and two- and four-year degrees.

        • Benefits: What states received from well-educated residents.

        Using those standards, the survey gave Ohio grades of C+, C-, D-, B and C.

ON THE WEB
Visit the study's official web site for more information and a state-by-state comparison.
        No argument, said Roderick G.W. Chu, chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents. “The report supports the focus of the regents' proposed new budget: targeting investments in higher education to improve student and teacher achievement and to build the economic future of Ohio.”

        Kentucky received C, D, B, C-, D.

        Fair enough, responded Gordon Davies, president of Kentucky's Council on Postsecondary Education. “Our grades show that we have a long way to go.” However, Mr. Davies added, Kentucky has embraced sweeping reforms and future grades “will reflect that extraordinary resolve to move forward.”

        The project used generally available 1998 public information and focused on states rather than schools, citing wide state responsibilities for higher ed. Public and private, nonprofit and proprietary schools were included.

        Family wealth and where a young person lives have more influence nationally on college opportunities than race or ethnicity, although they remain a significant factor, the study found.

        Ohio and Kentucky averages contrast starkly with the B+/A- earned by Massachusetts, Utah, Illinois, Connecticut and Wisconsin, but they were no surprise.

        Educators in Columbus and Frankfort have become increasingly vocal about the handicap, in this Information Age, of low numbers entering post-secondary training and the paucity of residents with at least a four-year degree.

        The survey praised the affordability of Kentucky two- and four-year schools but faulted the Commonwealth on how little it “invests” in financial aid to low-income students and families.

        Also praised was the high proportion of Kentucky's first-year college students who return for a second year but the state was criticized for the “very low percentage of first-time, full-time college students (who) earn a bachelor's degree within five years of enrolling.”

        On the other hand, Ohio ranked well on students who returned for a second year and earned bachelor's degrees within five years. Similarly, “a large proportion” complete certificates in non-degree programs.

        However, Ohio was graded D- on affordability because it does a poor job of providing aid to low-income students and families and requires “a large share of family income” to attend public two- and four-year colleges, even after financial aid.

        It's even worse among Ohio's private colleges, which enroll 25 percent of the state's post-secondary students. They force families to pay “a very large share of family income to attend.”

        The nonpartisan, nonprofit center was established in 1998 to promote public policies that it believes enhance college opportunities. This initial report, Measuring Up 2000, was funded by a number of major foundations.

       



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