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First Higher Education Accountability Report Sets Stage for Measuring Results




Contact: Sandy Connolly, Director of Communications
Office of Higher Education
(651) 259-3902

The Minnesota Office of Higher Education today released the state's first report on the performance of Minnesota's higher education sector. Minnesota Measures shows a variety of results on 18 preliminary measures identified as important to the state.

"This first report gives us a baseline and helps to focus the agenda for higher education around some measurable results," Governor Tim Pawlenty said. "In our knowledge-based economy, Minnesota relies heavily on our higher education institutions to respond to change and keep our state competitive. Every college in Minnesota must play an important role."

Five state goals serve as the framework for the report, which were defined through a public process involving educators, employers and policymakers. The 50-page report includes measures of student success such as college participation and graduation rates, institutional productivity, degrees awarded in critical fields, research and affordability and access.

"Minnesota has a diverse array of institutions that have made us proud and served us well for as long as we remember," said Susan Heegaard, Director of the Office of Higher Education. "What's changed is the competition and the expectations. If we are going to compete economically and intellectually, we need to understand where higher education is today, both nationally and internationally, and make informed decisions about where we want to be."

Key findings from the report include:

  • Among all states, Minnesota ranks quite favorably on several measures including the percentage of the state's adult population with college degrees (2nd) and the college-going rates of the state's high school graduates (5th).
  • Most often, Minnesota's performance ranked among the top half of states, but clearly not among the lead states. The state's four- and six-year graduation rates, the number and proportion of degrees earned in critical STEM and health fields and the proportion of adults enrolled in higher education stand out as areas with significant room for improvement.
  • The achievement gap between students of color and white students persists in Minnesota's colleges and universities, and is illustrated in the state's participation rates and graduation rates.
  • The University of Minnesota has not yet achieved its goal to be considered among the top three public research institutions in the world. Among states Minnesota currently ranks about 18th in its share of academic research expenditures, leaving considerable room for improvement.

Minnesota is one of only a few states to produce a broadly vetted set of goals for higher education and include performance of both public and private postsecondary institutions. Described as an evolving project, this first report acknowledges that measures in some areas have not yet been established, including assessments of student learning, affordability and access, job placement and other measures.

The report, Heegaard says, provides new information and context that will help educators and policymakers make informed decisions about how and where to improve. Setting targets, Heegaard says, will likely be the responsibility of the Governor, the Legislature and the institutions.

"We will continue to assess the health of the higher education sector and conduct routine diagnostics," she said. "Our role is to identify measures that fit the goals and report the data. Minnesota policymakers will need to prescribe the direction in which we, as a state, want to head."

Many of Governor Pawlenty's recent initiatives address issues identified in the report. His high school initiatives to improve academic rigor will prepare more students for college success. His current budget plan includes a large ACHIEVE scholarship program, designed to help high school students prepare and pay for college by giving them financial incentives to take rigorous courses in high school. He has also proposed and supported significant funding to boost the research capacity at the University of Minnesota and funded centers of excellence at Minnesota's state universities.

The Governor proposed the Minnesota Measures project in his 2005 budget proposal, citing the need for better information about higher education performance. The Legislature included the proposal in the higher education bill that year.

Minnesota Measures is available online at

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