Measuring the effectiveness of colleges by comparing them with their peers is difficult and problematic, given that so many institutions serve widely varying enrollments. So lawmakers should consider adjusting some of those gauges in order to better assess colleges’ performance. That’s the main theme of “Context for Success,” a set of findings released Friday from a two-year project that was led by the public-policy firm HCM Strategists and financed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The project asked scholars to consider ways to account for differences in student populations while evaluating institutional performance. It includes a series of research papers on issues related to input-adjusted measures of postsecondary outcomes. The authors reached consensus on several views that emerged from their work, including that colleges should account for costs, distrust average outcomes for institutions, and find better ways to track students who transfer.
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