Low grades for Kentucky's higher education system 'disappointing' but eye-opening, leaders say

07/18/2012 08:56 AM

Kentucky received an F in one area of higher education on a national report card to the surprise and disappointment of some state education leaders who questioned the results of the analysis.

A member of the United States Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday presented its “Leaders and Laggards” report, a state-by-state analysis of the best and worst performers in postsecondary education.

The report doled out grades in areas including: student access and success, efficiency and cost-effectiveness, meeting labor market demand and transparency and accountability.

Kentucky’s four-year universities scored on the low end of all the categories while its grades for two-year colleges were around the national average.

That raised some eyebrows on a panel of Kentucky leaders assembled at Tuesday’s Kentucky Chamber of Commerce annual meeting in Louisville.

Former Gov. Paul Patton, who successfully pushed for higher education reform in 1997 and has served as president of the University of Pikeville, said he was “disappointed” in the results. And he said it underscores how much work Kentucky has to do:

Kentucky, as a whole, received a C grade in policy environment and an F letter grade in openness to providers of innovation due to the restrictive nature of the regulatory environment.

In the other area of innovation, however, Kentucky scored on the higher end in the online learning area of education.

Alice Huston, former associate director of financial aid at the University of Louisville, expressed doubt with the methodology used in the report but acknowledged the data would be helpful for the future of postsecondary education.

Huston said the state should “use this data as a baseline over time and if done again, improvement will be measured against this benchmark regardless of the accuracy of the initial data.”

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