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Increasing Accountability in American Higher Education

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Uploaded on Nov 25, 2009

AEI Event: Increasing Accountability in American Higher Education, November 17, 2009 http://www.aei.org/event/100134

For decades, the higher education policy debate in the United States has focused on increasing access to colleges and universities. While this emphasis on access has led to significant gains in enrollment, far less attention has been paid to whether students ever receive a degree. As other industrial democracies have caught up with--and in some cases surpassed--the United States in the percentage of young adults with a college degree, some observers have begun to push for policies that emphasize college completion and create incentives for institutions to better serve their students. Three years after the Spellings Commission called for greater transparency and accountability in American higher education, however, there is still little consensus on how policymakers should reform the postsecondary system to ensure that colleges and universities are held accountable for retaining and graduating their students. This lack of progress reflects both the magnitude of the challenge and the failure of previous efforts to examine how the various pieces of the system—from measurement of student outcomes and data quality to faculty productivity to cost to accreditation and quality control—may facilitate or hinder meaningful accountability.

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