The Focus on Evidence – Sources on this Slide and Other Sources on Higher Education and Evidence

This webpage provides:

§         The Sources of the Quotations on the Slide

§         Other Sources on Higher Education and Evidence in Date Order


The Sources of the Quotations on the Slide

1st Source on the Slide – The Iron Triangle from Public Agenda

The Iron Triangle: College Presidents Talk about Costs, Access, and Quality

October 2008

The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education and Public Agenda


Homepage:  an excellent website for reports on diverse issues, including education. This site provides data for multiple years and stresses providing reliable data in a form that allows individuals to judge for themselves.

If you ask to be on their email list, they will alert you to topics as they are published.


The quotation in context (with the words quoted on the slide in bold):

The public, for its part, does not accept the idea that there is necessarily a reciprocal relationship between cost, quality, and access. More than half of the public (56%) say that colleges could spend a lot less and still maintain a high quality of education. Fifty-eight percent also say that colleges could take in “a lot more students” without affecting quality or increasing prices. While people stress the importance of higher education and recognize and respect its role as the gateway to the middle class for millions of Americans, they also have little sympathy for higher education’s problems. Indeed, a small majority (52%) regards colleges and universities primarily as a business, with an eye on the bottom line, and four in 10 Americans believe that waste and mismanagement is a factor in driving up the cost of college.


Earlier studies have also suggested that many business and government leaders do not share the vision of the iron triangle. As far back as the 1990s, more than six out of 10 government and business leaders believed that higher education was too bureaucratic and resistant to change, and that colleges needed to become leaner and more efficient. More recent qualitative interviews with business, media, and philanthropic leaders suggest that these attitudes have, if anything, intensified. For example, we have found enormous frustration among state legislators who often feel that state higher education institutions are unresponsive and lack accountability. One legislator put it this way: “There’s a feeling in the Legislature that the university is relatively arrogant. They’re not going to listen to anything you’re going to say. They just say, ‘Just send us the money. We’re too smart for you to tell us how to spend it. We’ll spend [any way] we think is right.’ Many times they go in the direct opposite of [the needs of] our region.”


2nd Source on the Slide – Culture of Evidence: Postsecondary Assessment and Learning Outcomes – ETS

Culture of Evidence: Postsecondary Assessment and Learning Outcomes, Educational Testing Service, 2007.


Homepage for ETS:

Main page for the report itself: - The report and related ones are downloadable for free.  The report notes that institutions of higher education must “prove their programs performance” and “take their programs to the next level” to choose the students and faculty they want and to “secure access to financial support from a competitive funding pool.”


The report also includes information from NAAL and related authors, including the source of the quotation “only 31 percent of college graduates can read a complex book and extrapolate from it.”


3rd Source on the Slide – State of the (Non)Union: Pressures on and within Higher Education and the Role of Assessment as a (Professional) Response

Author:  David C. Paris, Executive Director – New Leadership Alliance for Student Learning and Accountability, Plenary speaker at the Texas A&M Assessment Conference - February 2012


Date: February 21, 2012


URL to the New Leadership Alliance for Student Learning and Accountability: (supported by both the Teague Foundation and the Carnegie Foundation)


URL to the Presentation: -

This handout provides a CRITERIA FOR EPSLA CERTIFICATION a rubric to help educators think about measurement for evaluating student learning

This also provides a quick review of over 50 years of major issues in higher education.


The key issue seems to be that higher education no longer has a choice about having evidence. We must have “EVIDENCE-BASED IMPROVEMENT OF LEARNING” The issue seems to be “Will we govern us?  Assessment and accountability as the path to professionalism…..and reform”



Other Sources on Higher Education and Evidence in Date Order


Full Title (and Direct Link If Available)



Example of Usefulness

Don't Count Us Out

How An Overreliance On Accountability Could Undermine The Public's
Confidence In Schools, Business, Government, And More


Public Agenda and the Kettering Foundation

“At a time when citizens can hardly read a newspaper article about government, education, philanthropy, business or healthcare that doesn't talk about accountability and the imperative of institutions to provide more information to citizens, new research from Public Agenda and the Kettering Foundation presents startling evidence that the public and leaders hold vastly different ideas about what it even means to be accountable...


Among the most important contrasts between public and leadership views on accountability are:

§         More Information ≠ More Trust. Perhaps Less!

§         Accountability Requires Ethics—Not Just Rules….

§         Responsiveness is valued over benchmarks….

§         Accountability is not the exclusive domain of leaders – the public expects to be held accountable….”

Is College Worth It?

College Presidents, Public Assess, Value, Quality and Mission of Higher Education (overview and access to the full report)



Pew Research Center Publication



“A majority of Americans (57%) say the higher education system in the United States fails to provide students with good value for the money they and their families spend. An even larger majority (75%) says college is too expensive for most Americans to afford. At the same time, however, an overwhelming majority of college graduates (86%) say that college has been a good investment for them personally.”


Executives Worry that Challenges of Cost, Quality, Accountability Are Holding Higher Ed, America Back


Public Agenda  and the Committee for Economic Development (CED

“There are growing and grave concerns about the system’s ability to remain a leader and produce the workforce our future economy demands,” said Steve Farkas, lead author of the Public Agenda report. “Business leaders told us that, if higher education fails to control costs and hold itself accountable for results, our colleges and universities will become less relevant, and our economy will suffer greatly.”

The report is the result of focus groups and interviews with nearly 40 business executives from a variety of large and mid-size companies. This research suggests that business leaders have a common concern about the key challenges facing higher education, and highlights the opportunity – and the economic imperative – for the business community to be more engaged in higher education reform.”






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