In March 2003, the Education Commission of the States, the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, and the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education established a collaborative project to help states improve higher education performance by assisting with examination of state higher education policies and with establishing broad agreement around statewide priorities for improvement.
Five states participated formally in the new National Collaborative for Higher Education Policy: Missouri, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia. The starting point for the analysis in each state was Measuring Up, the national report card series issued by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. Additional state-specific information was added to provide a more comprehensive picture of the needs of each state. As part of the process, a leadership group was formed in each state to analyze performance, assess policy gaps, and develop a new state agenda for higher education. The leadership group sought guidance from stakeholders throughout the state. A common priority in all of the states was the need for a more highly educated population that could function effectively in a technologically sophisticated world.
This report summarizes lessons learned from the collaborative project. It offers guidance to states interested in gaining broad agreement around a new agenda for higher education that is grounded in performance in the state and directed toward meeting the needs of state residents (see "A Guide for Setting a Public Agenda").
The National Collaborative for Higher Education Policy acknowledges the many leaders who have worked with us to develop new public agendas for their states and to define the responsibilities of higher education within those agendas. Their commitment and vision were instrumental in developing consensus around new priorities. The collaborative also is grateful for the guidance provided by those who served on the National Collaborative Advisory Council (see sidebar).
The collaborative was managed by Terese Rainwater at the Education Commission of the States, with assistance from Carl Krueger. We thank them for their good work.
Finally, the support of The Pew Charitable Trusts helped to make the collaborative possible. We are particularly grateful to program managers Michele Seidl and Nichole Rowles. We worked formally in five states, but our approach to policy and to reframing the public agenda for higher education has influenced a number of other states as well. Once again, the Trusts have helped to set a direction for American higher education policy.