DATE:   November 16-17, 2000

TO:   Board of Regents

FROM:  Richard A. Crofts, Commissioner

RE:  Commissioner's Report

          WICHE has received a grant from the Department of Education to assist States in expanding and improving high school students participation in the Advanced Placement program. I am pleased to report that Montana is one of the States sharing in this grant through the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education.

          On November 30th, the first "Report Card" on higher education in each of the fifty States will be released by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. In the Center's own words:

The National Center's overall purpose in creating a state-by-state report card on higher education is to stimulate the creation of state policies that enhance opportunity and achievement for all Americans who aspire to higher education. In each state, the National Center will seek to make the report card: 

A diagnostic tool for state policy leaders, one that enables them to identify strengths and weaknesses of higher education performance in their state compared to other states; and

A catalyst for constructive change as a widely disseminated, easily understood, objective framework for discussion and debate.

Each State will be given a letter grade (A-F) for each of the following categories:

Preparation. How well does the state prepare students to be eligible for and to benefit from opportunities for education beyond high school?

Participation. How well does the state perform in providing opportunities for enrollment in postsecondary education?

Affordability. How affordable is higher education for students and their families?

Persistence and Completion. How well do students persist toward and complete certificates and degrees?

Educational Gains and Returns. What are the economic, civil and social benefits that accrue to a state as a result of a more highly educated population?

The purpose is to assign a grade in each category to the State, not to institutions or to the State's system of public higher education. The Center believes that it has developed an objective and quantitative methodology to determine the grades. However, the methodology will not be revealed until the release of the report and some skepticism remains about that point.

The "Report Card" will be released at a news conference in Washington, DC, with press releases sent to all of the States. The Center has promised to try to provide advance copies to State leaders in advance of the public release, but not far enough in advance to allow any State to break the news embargo.

I will provide you information as soon as I receive it. The key to a positive outcome to this enterprise will be the ability of a State to move beyond curiosity, blame, or praise over the grade to a serious discussion of the public policy implications for the State.

          The Policy Committee of the Montana University System is an informal group that advises the Commissioner on the development and implementation of policies and directions for the Board of Regents and the university system. In order to improve co-ordination and communication and to broaden participation in policy discussions, I have decided to make changes in the make-up of the Committee. Effective with the December 8th meeting of the Committee its composition will be:

  • The Commissioner of Higher Education
  • The Deputy and Associate Commissioner
  • The Montana University System Counsel
  • The Presidents of the two universities
  • The four Chancellors
  • The Deans of the Colleges of Technology in Helena and Great Falls.

Other individuals may be invited for specific agenda items from time to time.