For Immediate Release 01 December 2000
Report Card Offers Opportunity to Shape Higher Education Public Policy
PIERREThe report card on higher education from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education highlights successes in South Dakota higher education policy and identifies opportunities for change, according to the Board of Regents Executive Director Robert T. Tad Perry. The report card, released on November 30, consists of an evaluation of each states performance on specific higher education indicators.
"The value of report cards lies in their definitions of good performance. They create benchmarks and serve to stimulate the public debate on important policy issues," said Perry. "They draw attention to standards against which to judge progress." The policy areas graded by the center include:
Among the six-states of the upper Great Plains region, South Dakota compares favorably on persistence to the completion of a degree, earning a B. According to the report a large number of students at South Dakotas four-year institutions return for their sophomore year. A substantial proportion of students complete certificates and degrees relative to the number enrolled. Only Iowa received a higher grade in this area. "The report did note, however, that less than half of all first-time full-time students earn a bachelors degree within five years of enrolling. In this high tech economy, where education is the gatekeeper for good jobs, we need to make a greater effort to keep students moving along toward achieving that degree," said Perry.
In the area of preparation for higher education, South Dakota earned a grade of C. In the region, only Nebraska earned an A. South Dakota received a high mark for the number of 18- to 24-years-olds who have completed high school. "We are doing a good job of getting our teenagers through high schools, but according to the report we are not asking enough of them academically while they are there. Our students are not taking the upper level math and science courses. The recent actions by the State Board of Education to increase high school graduation requirements should boost our performance in this area," said Perry. He also noted that the low number of students taking Advanced Placement examinations held down South Dakotas score in preparation. Advance Placement is a program offered through the College Board where a student can take an exam after completing an accelerated high school course in that subject area. If the students score is high enough, the student receives college credit and does not have to take the course upon entering college.
South Dakota received a C in participation, due in large part to the very small number of working-age adults enrolled in postsecondary educational programs. Only Montana received a lower grade than South Dakota in this area. Nebraska earned an A. "South Dakotas score in participation could be closely related to our grade of C in recognizing the benefits of higher education to the state and its economy generally," said Perry. "Its an upward spiral. An educated workforce attracts high-tech, high paying jobs, which in turn attract more educated people. A challenge to policy makers in this state is to create a critical mass of educated workers in order to get that upward spiral started here. Clearly, South Dakota should consider policies to encourage life-long learning," said Perry.
South Dakotas lone grade of D was received in the area of affordability. According to the report, South Dakota compares well even to the best-performing states on the share of family income required, after financial aid is factored in, to attend one of its public four-year institutions. Lack of assistance to low-income students contributes to the low grade in this area. South Dakota and Alaska, the report indicated, are the only two states that provide no need-based state financial aid. In this region Minnesota earned an A and Iowa received a B.
"I think it is important to remember that most of the data used in this report are from 1998. The South Dakota Board of Regents has taken actions in the last few years to address some of these issues, but the effects of these actions have not yet been realized," said Perry.
One senior editor of the report, William Trombley, singled out South Dakota as one of the states to watch because of its recent initiatives. In an article included in the report Trombley noted the Regents new funding framework, efforts to increase faculty salaries, and the redirection of funds on each university campus to special needs. These were all cited as reforms that could lead to higher grades when the next report is issued in 2002. The transformation of six separate institutions into a more cohesive system has lead to collaboration in course offerings and management of resources. "The national center recognizes that this will result in greater opportunities for South Dakotans," said Perry.
In one final category, student learning, the report gave all states a grade of incomplete. "The drafters of the report felt that no data exist to allow comparisons among states as to the amount of learning that occurs in college. South Dakota is unique in this respect, however. We may be the only state in the country that can measure the value added to education. We do this through the proficiency exam. A few years ago the Regents moved to require of all students to take the exam before they can enroll as juniors," said Perry.
"As a result of this report card, some challenges have been brought to light. We have an opportunity to discuss policies on high school preparation, financial aid, and extending the benefits of higher education to more students so that education can drive economic development in this state. Clearly these are exciting times to be shaping public policy," said Perry.
Measuring Up 2000: The State-by-State Report Card for Higher Education, may be found on the Internet atwww.highereducation.org.
For additional information contact Dr. Robert T. Tad Perry, Executive Director, (605) 773-3455.
Gains in Achievement between ACT and CAAP
% of Students Making Expected or Higher than Expected Gains
Fall 1999 and Spring 2000 Combined
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