MILWAUKEE — “Measuring Up 2000,” a major report released today by the California-based National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, gives high marks to colleges and universities in Wisconsin, says Katharine Lyall, president of the University of Wisconsin System.

“We are very pleased with Wisconsin’s high grades,” said Lyall. “It is heartening to see Wisconsin’s educational excellence recognized across the nation.”

The book-length study uses a report card format to grade each state in five areas: Preparation, Participation, Affordability, Completion, and Benefits. Wisconsin scored above the national average in all five areas.

“This report confirms many of the positive perceptions about Wisconsin’s educational system that were discussed on Wednesday at the Wisconsin Economic Summit here in Milwaukee,” said Lyall. “Several presenters and all of the regional reports commented on the importance of Wisconsin’s strong network of schools, colleges and universities. It’s viewed as a magnet that helps us attract and retain companies in the state.”

Here are the state’s grades in each of the five categories:

  • Preparation: A-
    This was Wisconsin’s highest grade. According to the report, “Wisconsin’s high school students are among the best prepared in the nation.”
  • Participation: B
    A high percentage of Wisconsin high school seniors (40%) go on to college immediately after graduation, one measure of participation. This compares favorably to an average participation of 42% in the nation’s “best performing states.” In another measure of participation, the percentage of working age adults (25 to 44) enrolled part time in some type of postsecondary education, Wisconsin did less well. Said Lyall, “This suggests that Wisconsin should focus more of its attention on higher education for the working adult population. The UW System made this a major focus of our biennial budget proposal to the Governor.”
  • Affordability: B+
    Wisconsin placed 6th among all states in this area. According to the report, “Wisconsin is a best performing state on the low share of family income required, after financial aid, to attend the state’s four year public colleges. . . Wisconsin compares very well to the top performing states on students’ low reliance on debt to pay for higher education.”
  • Completion: B
    A large proportion of Wisconsin’s first-time, full-time students received a bachelor’s degree within 5 years of starting college.
  • Benefits: B-
    Although above the national average, Wisconsin’s lowest score was in this area. Compared with other states, fewer people age 25 and older hold a bachelor’s degree. Wisconsin ‘s economy also offers fewer high-tech, high-paying jobs that attract and retain college graduates. As a result, Wisconsin continues to have a per capita income below the national average. “Brain drain and low personal income are two of the issues that prompted us to convene the Wisconsin Economic Summit,” said Lyall. “The report accurately reflects what we already knew: Wisconsin could do a better job of attracting college graduates from other states.”

In a sixth category, Learning, Wisconsin and all other states received a grade of “incomplete.” This is because “the states lack information on the educational performance of college students that would allow systematic state or national comparisons,” says the report.

The report adds that “Many states perform well in several areas, but no state receives straight A’s in providing opportunities for education and training beyond high school.” For example, only 5 to 8 grades of A or A- were given out in any one of the five categories.


Kevin Boatright, UW System
(608) 263-2227