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MEASURING UP: Report Finds States Make Little to No Improvement in Providing Access to College and Ensuring Success

“State leaders face a crucial option for higher education policy as they balance their budgets,” notes Patrick M. Callan, president of the National Center.

Although states have made modest gains in preparing students for college, more students are failing to graduate from high school, according to a new report from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education (National Center). Based on two decades of data, the report,Measuring Up 2008, also finds that states are making little to no progress in providing affordable college opportunities or improving college completion rates for students.

“State leaders face a crucial option for higher education policy as they balance their budgets,” notes Patrick M. Callan, president of the National Center. “They can respond as most states have in the past, by continuing to allow tuition to rise dramatically and passing the brunt of the financial distress onto students and families. Or they can establish state policies for tuition and financial aid that balance the financial burden among the state, the institutions of higher education, and students and families. This second option protects educational opportunity at a time when the states and the nation need a better-educated citizenry.”

As the report points out, nearly all individuals in today’s economy need education and training beyond high school in order to land a well-paying job and support a family. It adds that some states have made “modest advances” in college access and completion, but that these improvements are “overshadowed by larger gains in other countries.” Among twenty-five to thirty-four year olds, for example, the United States has slipped to tenth in percentage of individuals who have an associate’s degree or higher.

The report finds large disparities in college access and college completion rates for minority and low-income students. In fact, among high school graduates, 73 percent of white students enroll in college the fall after receiving a diploma, compared to only 58 percent of Hispanics and 56 percent of African Americans. In terms of family incomes, 91 percent of high school students from families earning above $100,000 a year enroll in college right after graduation, compared to 78 percent from families earning from $50,001 to $100,000, and 52 percent from families earning less than $20,000. The National Center also identified substantial differences in college enrollment rates across states. In California, high school freshmen are 17 percent less likely to enroll in college than their peers in Massachusetts.

Measuring Up 2008 is the most recent in a series of national and state-by-state reports that began in 2000 as a way for states to compare their own higher education outcomes to the best performers in the United States and internationally. As in earlier editions, this year’s report evaluates states in six key areas: preparation for college, participation and access to college, affordability, college completion, benefits, and learning.

The complete report is available at


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