MADISON, Wis. – The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education today released its bi-annual report, Measuring Up 2008: The National Report Card on Higher Education. University of Wisconsin System President Kevin P. Reilly praised the report for underscoring the need to support higher education in Wisconsin.
“Educational attainment will be key to our success as a state and as a nation,” Reilly said. “Our public university will produce the college-educated workers Wisconsin needs to compete in the innovation economy. That will have positive ripple effects across the state, boosting income, broadening the tax base, and reducing the individual tax burden. This will fuel a higher quality of life for our children and grandchildren.”
In measuring the affordability of public four-year universities, the report ranked some states higher than Wisconsin in spite of their significantly higher tuition rates. Likewise, some states with lower four-year tuition got lower scores for affordability, compared to Wisconsin. The difference, in most cases, is explained by the availability of need-based financial aid. The national report card does not account for tuition remissions, so the UW System does not get credit for significant educational benefits provided to Wisconsin military veterans and their dependents.
“We’ve been strong advocates for greater public and private investments in need-based financial aid, and this report illustrates how such investments lead to improved student access,” Reily said. “Broadly speaking, those investments represent a tangible promise to future college-bound students whose intellectual capacity may be greater than their financial means. We must send the message, loudly and clearly, that their aspirations and hard work will pay off.”
Wisconsin earned high marks for completion rates, ranking 11th in the nation for student retention at four-year colleges and 16th in the nation in bachelor’s degree completion.
“The UW System has worked hard to improve these completion rates, and that work is paying off,” Reilly said. “Targeted investments in advising and student support help improve the efficiency of our entire educational pipeline. Ultimately, the return-on-investment for students and taxpayers alike is tremendous.”
Measuring Up pointed to the relatively low number of working-age adults enrolled in college, which is the focus of UW System’s new Adult Student Initiative. The report also noted the lingering achievement gap between students of color and their white counterparts. On these issues, the national report mirrors findings from UW System’s annual Accountability Report, presented to the UW System Board of Regents in April.
“We must do more to enroll and serve students of color, those from low-income households, and all first-generation college students,” Reilly said. “Through the Wisconsin Covenant, the KnowHow2GO initiative, and the Making Opportunity Affordable project, we are working to reach a broader, deeper cut of Wisconsin’s population,” said Reilly. “Our message to them should be unequivocal – you belong here, you can succeed if you work hard, and we will do everything in our power to ensure that your family can afford to send you to college.”
“The UW System’s Growth Agenda for Wisconsin is our plan to produce more degree holders, help create well-paying jobs, and build stronger communities all across the state,” Reilly said. “The report issued today is a useful diagnostic tool—one that confirms that the Growth Agenda builds on our strengths and addresses areas where we as a state need to improve.”