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Press Releases | Trusteeship

Eight Measures of Highly Effective Colleges

December 2, 2008

WASHINGTON, DC—How can education leaders make sense of the overwhelming amount of data on higher ed? Stick to the basics, says a higher education expert in an essay published today by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.

The essay, entitled Metrics for Effective Governance, urges college trustees to focus on eight key metrics—including graduation and retention rates, real net costs and academic quality—when assessing their university’s performance. Its author, G.L. “Peter” Alcock Jr., is the vice chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education and a trustee at Fitchburg State College.

“You can’t govern effectively and improve quality if you don’t have a clear picture of what’s going on,” said ACTA president Anne D. Neal. “And that requires a clear set of performance indicators that allow governing bodies to track progress and measure success.”

The essay is designed to help university governing boards sift through the countless performance measures available, and it offers concrete advice on how to pin down the most elusive marker of all—academic quality.

“While most college trustees can readily understand graduation and retention rates, assessing academic performance is like entering the Land of Oz,” Alcock writes. Rather than relying on U.S. News & World Report’s peer review, Alcock recommends that trustees make sure their school has a sound curriculum in place and then look into the different tests that measure student learning.

The essay, which has been sent to thousands of college and university trustees by ACTA’s Institute for Effective Governance, is available on ACTA’s website. It is the latest of IEG’s Essays in Perspective, which stimulate discussion of key issues by providing a forum for the views of independent experts. ACTA’s IEG also publishes trustee guidebooks, including Asking Questions, Getting Answers; The Basics of Responsible Trusteeship; Assessing the President’s Performance; and Strategic Planning and Trustees Responsibility. The publications have been praised by higher education leaders and trustees from around the country.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is an independent non-profit dedicated to academic freedom, academic quality, and accountability. Its network includes alumni and trustees from more than 600 colleges and universities across the country. Since its founding in 1995, ACTA has counseled boards and educated the public about such issues as historical literacy, core curricula, the free exchange of ideas, accreditation, and good governance in higher education.

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