National report card ranks Illinois among top three.

By Gus Bode

Kristina Herrndobler and Jane Huh

Deakhead:Measuring Up 2002 puts Illinois on Honor Roll.

Students aren’t the only ones getting graded on college campuses these days.

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According to a report from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, states are getting graded on their higher education programs, and Illinois is listed among the best.

Illinois ranked third in the nation in Measuring Up 2002, behind Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Measuring Up grades states in five categories of key indicators crafted to measure higher education performance, including preparation, participation, affordability, degree completion and benefits. All states received an incomplete in a sixth category – learning based on the National Center’s judgment that no reliable, comparable statistical measures exist for evaluating statewide performance.

“There’s no national scale or database [for student learning] that allows us to compare state by state,” said Mikyung Ryu, a policy analyst. “Some states have developed a scale just for their own state. We can’t use that scale because it’s based-specific.”

Illinois’ overall “grade point average” was 86.4 in Measuring Up 2002, a slight decline from the first report card issued two years ago when Illinois’ 88.8 average placed it first in the competition.

John S. Haller, vice president of Academic Affairs, said the 2002 report was probably a truer listing than two years ago.

“We didn’t expect to remain number one because the first report card in 2000, because at that time a number of states did not have available data turned into the Center for Public Policy,” Haller said. “I think every Illinoisan has the right to be pleased, but we still need to be diligent to improve in all categories. With only one A, we still have room for improvement.”

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In 2002, Illinois’ grades in preparation and affordability fell from A’s to B’s, and the grade in completion rose from a C+ to a B-. In participation, Illinois received an A, while the state received a B- in benefits – measuring educational attainment, rise in personal income resulting from college participation, voting patterns and charitable donations.

Haller said although he didn’t think a drop in the state’s letter grade in affordability was connected to SIUC’s tuition increase, he said anything was possible.

Still, he said the most important information about affordability coming out of the report was that the average loan for Illinois students in 2000 was $4,171, while in the 2002 report, the average loan was $3,379. Still, that figure is above the $2,928 average of the top-performing states.

Ryu said the purpose of the report is to assist states to assess the progress of its higher education.

“We created this report for one, among others, important purpose,” Ryu said. “State governments are primary authorities to provide higher education opportunities for their residents.

But so far, there hasn’t been sufficient information for state governments to assess how they do in higher education. The report card provides state by states comparison information to allow them to assess.”

Illinois will be among six states to help develop a pilot model for evaluating student learning across states, using both existing measures and others yet to be devised.

The center will begin working on the next 2004 report at the end of the year, Ryu said.

Reporter Kristina Herrndobler can be reached at [email protected]

Reporter Jane Huh can be reached at [email protected]

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