What practical ideas can researchers suggest to policymakers who want to measure the outcomes of higher education, but who also want to account for the differences in the types of students colleges and universities enroll or the financial resources they are provided? Measuring postsecondary success depends heavily on the variables that are used, and how each variable is weighed. The diversity of postsecondary institutions and the variety of credentials they award make higher education fundamentally different from K-12 education, which is often the model for thinking about “value-added” measures of performance. But this concept does not translate well to higher education. How can we identify which institutions are most effective in educating students while still accounting for the disparities among them?

This is the focus of Context for Success, a collaborative effort between scholars and policymakers from across the nation to identify best practices to account for differences in college “inputs”—students, resources, fixed characteristics—when evaluating postsecondary outcomes. Commissioned by HCM Strategists in 2011, Context for Success identified challenges in current methods of evaluating postsecondary education and sought ideas grounded in research that would have practical benefits in the higher education policy world.

Here you can find the results of the project: seven research papers that evaluate input-corrected quantitative measures of postsecondary outcomes, as well as an overview of the project, a literature review, and an accompanying series of issue briefs.




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