Metrics for Efficiency and Effectiveness in Higher Education: Completing the Completion Agenda

The efficiency and effectiveness of America’s colleges and universities has become a major issue for policymakers in this time of constrained resources. A penny saved through better efficiency and effectiveness is a penny that can be used to further another worthwhile objective, either within the higher education sector or for the taxpayers generally. This is consistent with the philosophical argument that efficiency in pursuit of worthy causes should be viewed as a moral goal because such efficiency is the antithesis of waste, which is “manifestly immoral.”

NGA’s “Completion Agenda” proposes reliable and comparable Outcomes and Progress Metrics to enable better tracking of degree and certificate completion. NGA is now in the process of developing Efficiency and Effectiveness Metrics that include, among other things, cost and quality. It is expected that these metrics will complement the findings of Lumina Foundation’s Productivity Metrics Working Group and the National Research Council’s Panel on Improving Measurement of Productivity and Higher Education.

My purpose in this paper is to discuss efficiency and effectiveness metrics on certain key principles and issues. I’ll cover the following topics: (1) terminology; (2) design considerations; (3) quality matters; and (4) policy development.

Publication Date: 
Sunday, May 1, 2011
William Massy