July 12, 2012

Leaders & Laggards: A State-by-State Report Card on Public Postsecondary Education

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This report identifies the best and worst performing states—the leaders and laggards— in public postsecondary education. It focuses on the performance of the institutions over which state governments have the most influence: public colleges and universities. In an effort to systematically measure the most important factors being watched by policymakers, business leaders, and concerned citizens, we graded state performance and policy in the following six areas:

Student Access & Success

  • Do state institutions retain and graduate a high percentage of their students within a reasonable amount of time?
  • Do they ensure access for low-income students?

Efficiency & Cost-Effectiveness

  • How much money do public institutions spend on education and related expenses per degree produced
  • How much does it cost, in state and local spending, to produce degrees?

Meeting Labor Market Demand

  • How much better do college graduates fare than their less-educated peers in terms of employment and wages?

Transparency & Accountability

  • Do states measure learning and labor market outcomes? Do they routinely make information on the performance of the higher education system available to the public?

Policy Environment

  • Do states have policies in place that provide incentives to promote degree completion and allow students to transfer course credits freely within the system?


  • Have states made efforts to embrace innovative ways of delivering college instruction?
  • Do states encourage innovative providers to serve nontraditional students who may be underserved by the existing system?

View the interactive online map >