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The Attainment Agenda

State Policy Leadership in Higher Education

Laura W. Perna and Joni E. Finney foreword by Patrick M. Callan

Publication Year: 2014

Although the federal government invests substantial resources into student financial aid, states have the primary responsibility for policies that raise overall higher educational attainment and improve equity across groups. The importance of understanding how states may accomplish these goals has never been greater, as educational attainment is increasingly required for economic and social well-being of individuals and society. Drawing on data collected from case studies of the relationship between public policy and higher education performance in five states—Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Texas, and Washington—The Attainment Agenda offers a framework for understanding how state public policy can effectively promote educational attainment. Laura W. Perna and Joni E. Finney argue that there is no silver bullet to improve higher education attainment. Instead, achieving the required levels of attainment demands a comprehensive approach. State leaders must consider how performance in one area (such as degree completion) is connected to performance in other areas (such as preparation or affordability), how particular policies interact to produce expected and unexpected outcomes, and how policy approaches must be adapted to reflect their particular context. The authors call for greater attention to the state role in providing policy leadership and steering of higher education in order to advance a cohesive public agenda for higher education and adopting public policies that not only increase the demand for and supply of higher education but also level the playing field for higher educational opportunity. The insights offered in The Attainment Agenda have important implications for public policymakers, college and university leaders, and educational researchers interested in ensuring sustained higher education attainment.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Foreword

Patrick M. Callan

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pp. vii-x

The week The Attainment Agenda was completed and sent to the publisher, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) issued the most recent in its series of reports comparing national education performance. Once again the OECD documented, as it has for most of the past decade, the relatively weak higher education attainment rates of young American adults...

Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xiv

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1. Improving Higher Education Attainment of All Students: A National Imperative

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pp. 1-25

Once a world leader, the United States has fallen behind other nations in the educational attainment of its population. Although the percentage of adults age 45 to 54 who hold at least a baccalaureate degree is higher in the United States than in other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations, the United States now ranks below several other nations, including Norway, the Netherlands, Korea, New Zealand, Denmark, and Sweden, ...

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2. Understanding the Relationship between Public Policy and Higher Education Performance: Guiding Perspectives

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pp. 26-37

As in earlier eras, higher education must now play an important role in achieving societal priorities. At this point in our nation’s history, renewed attention to the role of state policy in ensuring that higher education is achieving its public purposes is essential. Clearly, states must do more if they are to have the levels of higher education required to meet workforce needs and improve equity in attainment across groups...

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3 Examining the Relationship between Public Policy and Performance in Five States: What We Did

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pp. 38-62

How can a state use public policy to improve the performance of higher education to maximize the individual and societal benefits in light of state-specific characteristics of their state? To address this overarching question, we conducted case studies of the relationship between public policy and performance in five states. We constructed each case study to address the following two questions: ...

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4. Perpetuating Disparity: The Performance and State Policies of Higher Education in Georgia

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pp. 63-85

Over the past decade, the performance of higher education in Georgia has remained below the national average on most key measures of higher education attainment.1 Although the state has been successful in workforce education (as measured by the completion of short-term certificates at technical colleges) and research, Georgia ranks below most states (thirty-first in the nation) in the percentage of adults (ages 25 and older) who have attained an associate degree or higher...

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5. A Story of Decline: The Performance and State Policies of Higher Education in Illinois

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pp. 86-109

In the mid-and late 1990s, Illinois led the nation in the performance of its higher education system, its ability to set shared goals and priorities for higher education, and its strategic use of resources to achieve its goals and priorities. During the past decade, however, the state has experienced substantial declines in all of these areas.1...

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6. Much Accomplished, Much at Stake: The Performance and State Policies of Higher Education in Maryland

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pp. 110-136

Maryland leads the nation in the educational attainment of its population.1 In 2008, 43.9% of adults in Maryland (ages 25 and older) held at least an associate degree, compared with 37.9% of adults nationwide.2 Even with this relatively high performance, Maryland aspires to even greater attainment.3 A leader of a state higher education agency we interviewed explained that Maryland seeks to compete globally, not nationally, stating: “Our governor has made it clear that...

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7. Hard Choices Ahead: The Performance and State Policies of Higher Education in Texas

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pp. 137-167

Over the past decade, Texas has made considerable improvement in several areas of higher education performance, including preparing students for college, increasing college participation, and raising college completion rates.1 Despite these gains, however, the state continues to perform below the national average on key measures of these outcomes and ranks among the bottom quarter of states (39th) in the percentage of adults (ages 25 and older) who have attained...

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8. State Policy Leadership Vacuum: The Performance and State Policies of Higher Education in Washington

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pp. 168-199

Washington has one of the highest levels of education attainment in the nation.1 It ranks thirteenth among all U.S. states, with 42% of adults age 25 and older in Washington having attained an associate degree or more in 2008.2
Nonetheless, for the state of Washington, measuring attainment at the associate degree level is insufficient. As suggested by its top ranking on the State New Economy Index, Washington’s economic prosperity depends on the availability of workers who have earned at least a bachelor’s degree...

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9. Lessons Learned: Conclusions and Implications

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pp. 200-240

The importance of understanding how to improve higher education performance has never been greater, since educational attainment is increasingly required for the economic and social well-being not only of individuals but also of society. As Joseph Stiglitz argues, greater educational attainment will contribute “to a more efficient and dynamic economy.”1...

Notes

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pp. 241-276

References

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pp. 277-298

Index

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pp. 299-308

About the Authors

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E-ISBN-13: 9781421414072
E-ISBN-10: 1421414074
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421414065
Print-ISBN-10: 1421414066

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 1 line drawing
Publication Year: 2014

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Higher education and state -- United States -- States.
  • Higher education and state -- United States -- States -- Case studies.
  • Education, Higher -- United States -- States.
  • Education, Higher -- United States -- States -- Case studies.
  • Educational attainment -- United States -- States.
  • School management and organization -- United States -- States.
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