Questions & Answers


Who is being graded in this report card, and why?

Measuring Up 2008 grades states, not students or individual colleges or universities, on their performance in higher education. The states are responsible for preparing students for higher education by means of sound K-12 school systems, and they provide most of the public financial support—approximately $77 billion in 2008—for colleges and universities. Through their oversight of public institutions of higher education, state leaders affect the types and number of education programs available in the state. State leaders also determine the limits of financial support and often influence tuition and fees for public colleges and universities. They also establish how much state-based financial aid is available to students and their families, which affects students attending both private and public colleges and universities. In addition, state economic development policies influence the income advantage that residents receive from having some college experience or a college degree.

Why is a state-by-state report card needed for higher education?

Measuring Up provides the general public and policymakers with objective information they need to assess and improve higher education. With the publication of the first edition of Measuring Up in 2000, states could evaluate and compare performance in higher education within a national context for the first time. The report card series was developed as a tool for fostering improvement in policy and performance.

What factors are considered when grading states?

The report card grades states in six overall performance categories:

  • Preparation: How adequately does the state prepare students for education and training beyond high school?
  • Participation: Do state residents have sufficient opportunities to enroll in education and training beyond high school?
  • Affordability: How affordable is higher education for students and their families?
  • Completion: Do students make progress toward and complete their certificates or degrees in a timely manner?
  • Benefits: What benefits does the state receive from having a highly educated population?
  • Learning: What is known about student learning as a result of education and training beyond high school?

How are states graded?

States receive letter grades in each performance category. Each category consists of several indicators, or quantitative measures—a total of 36 indicators in the five graded categories. Grades are calculated based on each state’s performance on these indicators, relative to the best-performing states. Grades in Measuring Up 2008 reflect state performance for 2006 or 2007, the most recent information available.

For the sixth category, Learning, states receive an “incomplete” because there is not sufficient information about student learning for meaningful state-by-state comparisons.

What sources of information are used to determine the grades?

All data used to grade states in Measuring Up 2008 were collected from reliable national sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Education. All data are the most recent public information available for state comparisons. Please see the Technical Guide for Measuring Up 2008 for more information regarding data sources.

Does the report card grade on a curve?

No. Grades are calculated by comparing each state to the best-performing states for each indicator.

What grading scale is used?

As shown in “How We Grade States,” letter grades are based on the familiar 100-point scale: An “A” represents a score of 90 or above, and an “F” represents a score below 60.

How do we measure Change Over Time?

Change Over Time indicators compare each state’s current performance with its own previous performance in the 1990s. For each category, the state’s change is determined by its improvement or decline in performance on a key indicator in that category. This information is displayed in two ways. First, states receive either an “up” or a “down” arrow in each performance area.  An “up” arrow indicates that the state has increased or remained stable on the key indicator in the category, a “down” arrow indicates that the state has declined on the key indicator in the category. Secondly, information about Change Over Time is presented graphically in greater detail on the second page of each state’s summary report card.

Does the report card use data that are unique to a particular state?

Measuring Up 2008 only uses data that are comparable across states. As a result, some states may find that their own internal data present a fuller picture of the state’s strengths and weaknesses in higher education. The National Center encourages states to add their own data to the report card’s categories to create a more detailed picture of state performance.

What happens if data are missing for a state?

When information is not available on a particular indicator, we assume for the purposes of grading that the state is doing no better or worse on that particular indicator than it is on the other indicators in that performance category. However, the report card uses the most recent data available. In the event that a state has data that were available for the 2006 edition of Measuring Up but not for the 2008 edition, the data from Measuring Up 2006 are used again in this edition, since they are the most recent data available.

How does the report card account for the migration of people across state lines?

Migration affects two of the performance categories: Participation and Benefits. One of the indicators in the Participation category accounts for the migration of young people, but the indicator in the Benefits category does not, due to limitations in national data collection. In the Participation category, please see the net migration of students reported in the “Other Key Facts” section of the state report cards. In the Benefits category, states receive credit for having an educated population since they reap the economic and societal rewards regardless of where their residents were educated. With the exception of the Benefits category, all other graded performance categories recognize states for developing rather than importing talent.

How frequently are the report cards published?

The report cards are published every two years. Previous report cards were published in 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006.

What information is provided but not graded?

The state report cards highlight important gaps in college opportunities for various income and ethnic groups, they identify improvements and setbacks in each state’s performance over time, and they compare state performance in higher education with other countries. Each state report card also presents important contextual information, such as demographic trends, student migration data, and state funding levels for higher education.

Why does Measuring Up 2008 include international indicators?

As in 2006, this year’s edition of Measuring Up provides information on key international indicators of educational performance. In the global economy, it is critical for each nation to establish and maintain a competitive edge through the ongoing, high-quality education of its population. Measuring Up 2008 offers international comparisons that reveal how well the United States and each of the 50 states are preparing residents with the knowledge and skills necessary to compete in a global economy. As with other data in the report card, each international measure is based on the most current data available. In this case, the data are from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). International comparisons are used to gauge the states’ and the nation’s standing relative to OECD countries on the participation and educational success of their populations. Please see the Technical Guide for Measuring Up 2008 for more information regarding data sources.

How can I find out more about the report card or my state’s performance?

Explore the National Center’s Web site at to:

  • Download state report cards and the national report card.
  • Compare any state with the best-performing states in each performance category.
  • Compare states’ grades and indicator results in each performance category.
  • Compare states’ other key factors (such as demographic indicators and higher education appropriations).
  • Identify gaps in state performance for ethnic and income groups.
  • Link directly to the sources that gathered the data.
  • Obtain technical information and sources for indicators, weights, and calculations.
  • Find out more about the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.