The Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) Interactive Dashboard provides data and key performance indicators relevant to the goal of improving educational attainment in the Midwest and across the nation. Indicators are organized within seven categories: Context, Preparation, Participation, Affordability, Completion, Finance, and Benefits. Several of these areas also portray a subcategory highlighting opportunity and achievement gaps by income, race, and ethnicity. Data can be examined over time or compared across states using various benchmarks, including the U.S. average or population proportion as a lower performance benchmark and the median of the top five states in the nation as an aspirational benchmark.
Various factors in the state context of postsecondary education shape policy demands, possibilities, and effectiveness. States with many at-risk students and a dwindling supply of high school graduates, for instance, face different policy challenges than states with other demographic circumstances. Indicators in this category include:
- Lower-income public school students: the percentage of elementary and secondary students who qualified for free or reduced-priced lunch.
- Public high school graduate projections: the historical and projected number of public high school graduates by race.
- Total/net migration: total student migration across state borders and the difference between the net number of first-time freshmen enrolled at Title IV institutions in the state and the number of first-time freshmen enrolled at Title IV institutions outside of the state.
- Adjusted out-migration: the number of in-state high school graduates enrolled in an out-of-state postsecondary institution per 100 in-state high school graduates
Academic preparation constitutes a key leverage point for improving postsecondary outcomes. The extent to which students are academically prepared for college predicts bachelor’s degree completion beyond the effects of race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, institutional selectivity, attendance patterns, and academic performance during college. The cumulative nature of both academic competencies and deficits necessitates an assessment of academic preparedness that spans pre-K education, middle school, and high school. Indicators in this category include:
- Preschool enrollment: the percentage of children ages 3 to 4 enrolled in preschool.
- 8th Grade Achievement: the percentage of students in grade 8 scoring at or above proficiency on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
- High school completion: the percentage of students who graduate in four years with a regular high school diploma.
- College admissions test taking: the percentage of high school graduates taking the ACT and SAT.
- ACT Achievement: the percentage of test takers who meet college readiness benchmarks on the ACT.
- SAT Achievement: the percentage of test takers who meet college readiness benchmarks on the SAT.
- 8th grade achievement by income: 8th grade proficiency levels in math, reading, and science on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) among low-income students who qualified for free- or reduced-price lunch and “higher”-income students who were not eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program.
- 8th grade achievement by race/ethnicity: 8th grade proficiency levels in math, reading, and science on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) by race/ethnicity.
- High school completion by income: graduation rates among low-income students who qualified for free- or reduced-price lunch and “higher”-income students who were not eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program.
- High school completion by race/ethnicity: the percentage of students who graduate in four years with a regular high school diploma by race and ethnicity.
A critical challenge for policymakers is to ensure that residents can access a college education compatible with their aspirations and abilities. Postsecondary participation rates provide a general indication of whether opportunities for higher education need to be improved for both younger and older adults. Indicators in this category include:
- Direct enrollment: the percentage of high school graduates who enroll in a postsecondary institution during the fall immediately following high school completion.
- Traditional age enrollment: the percentage of all 18- to 24-year-old adults in the state who are currently enrolled in college or have completed some college.
- Older adult enrollment: the rate of enrollment among adults aged 25 to 49 who have earned at least a high school diploma or GED but have not yet earned an associate degree or higher.
- Enrollment by family income: college enrollment rates among dependent 18- to 24-year-old residents by family income.
- Enrollment by race/ethnicity: the percentage of all 18- to 24-year-old adults in the state who are currently enrolled in college or have completed some college by race and ethnicity.
- Racial/ethnic distribution: compares the demographic composition of state populations aged 18-24 to current postsecondary enrollment at public two- and four-year institutions.
Over the past few decades, college tuition and fees have increased at more than four times the rate of consumer prices, partly in response to reductions in state and local funding. These increases in tuition have occurred while the incomes of many low- and middle-income families have stagnated or declined. This is potentially problematic since a higher net price of college has been associated with lower rates of college enrollment and completion, particularly among students from low-income families. Indicators in this category include:
- Net price: the average net price a median-income family must pay for one year of full-time enrollment at a public institution.
- Saving for College: the monthly savings over the course of both 10 years and 18 years needed for a median-income family to pay for the average net price of college in the state.
- Graduates with debt: the percentage of public four-year college graduates with debt.
- Amount of debt: the average debt of graduates from four-year public institutions.
- Ability to pay by family income: the percentage of family income needed to pay the net price of full-time enrollment at public two- and four-year institutions for students from families with median incomes and families in the lowest income quintile.
- Ability to pay by race/ethnicity: the percentage of family income needed to pay the net price of full-time enrollment at public two- and four- year institutions for families with median income in each racial and ethnic group.
While many states have made significant gains in postsecondary enrollment, rates of degree completion across the nation remain below expected levels. The failure to complete a degree program has negative consequences for both students and states. Since employers are more likely to demand an educational credential than a specific number of postsecondary credits, a premature departure from college can severely curb one’s prospects for future employment and earnings. For example, individuals who have attained a bachelor’s degree earn 14 to 26 percent more than those who have completed 16 years of schooling without graduating from college. Similarly, individuals who have earned a certificate or associate degree tend to earn significantly more than those who enrolled but did not graduate, particularly in health-related and technical fields. In addition, when students fail to graduate, the state fails to optimize its investment in higher education through lost institutional appropriations and student grant aid as well as lost revenue from state income tax. Indicators in this category include:
- Retention: the percentage of enrolled students that return to campus the next academic year.
- On-time graduation: the graduation rate of first-time, full-time students who enter during the fall and graduate from their first institution within 100% of program time (e.g., four years for bachelor’s degree-seeking students).
- Six-year completion rates: the proportion of first-time, certificate/degree-seeking students in the fall cohort who completed a certificate or degree within six years, while accounting for students who enroll part- or full-time and graduate from their first institution or elsewhere.
- Institutional Effectiveness: the difference between an institution’s actual graduation rate and the rate that would be expected given the institution’s structural, demographic, financial, and contextual characteristics.
- STEM degrees awarded: the number of STEM degrees awarded for every 1,000 people aged 18-24 years.
- Graduation rates by ethnicity: the proportion of first-time, full-time certificate/degree-seeking students who transferred or completed an associate degree or certificate at a public two-year college within three years or completed a bachelor’s degree at a public four-year institution within six years (without accounting for transfer to another institution).
- Graduation rates by family income: six-year graduation rates among Pell grant recipients and non-Pell recipients at public four-year institutions.
Substantial financial investments are required to create and sustain a P-20 educational system that meets state needs for economic and social development. Altogether states allocated 10 percent of their budgets to higher education in 2018,28 including general operating expenses (78 percent); research, agricultural extension, and medical education (10 percent); and student financial aid (11 percent). Various factors influence funding for education within any particular state, including the tax base and structure, enrollment, expenditures for other public services, and economic conditions. Notably, state funding for higher education fell significantly following two major recessions (the tech bust in the early 2000s and the Great Recession in 2007-2009), but the ensuing economic recoveries did not result in reinvestment in higher education at pre-recession levels. States also differ in the strategies used to ensure that postsecondary education remains affordable. Some concentrate funds into direct institutional appropriations, while others may focus more on need-based student aid. Indicators in this category include:
- Pre-K expenditures: average pre-K expenditures per child enrolled in a pre-K program.
- K-12 expenditures: average state K-12 expenditures per child enrolled in K-12.
- Higher Ed funding per student: state and local educational appropriations for higher education per FTE student.
- Higher Ed funding effort: state fiscal support for higher education per $1,000 of personal income.
- State-student cost share: compares educational appropriations and net tuition revenue as a percent of total educational revenue for public postsecondary institutions.
- Institutional funding: state and local appropriations are shown for public two- and four-year institutions in relation to education and related expenditures, which reflect the total amount spent on instruction, student services, and academic support.
- Need-based aid per student: the amount of need-based grant aid per FTE student or recipient.
- Percent of aid as need-based: state need-based aid as a percent of total state grant aid allocations.
- State/federal aid commitment: total state need-based aid relative to Pell grant aid.
The ability of policymakers to reach attainment goals carries significant implications for state revenue. Projections suggest that if attainment goals were fulfilled by 2025, millions of dollars would be generated in most states through state income tax, sales tax, property tax, Medicaid savings, and corrections savings. Moreover, policies that effectively raise levels of educational attainment will yield important civic and health benefits, including higher rates of voting, volunteerism, and healthful prenatal care. For example, health risk factors such as smoking are less prevalent among individuals who have a bachelor’s degree or higher. State residents also benefit from higher education in terms of higher earnings and lower unemployment, compared to those with only a high school diploma. Indicators in this category include:
- Unemployment rate: average unemployment rates among adults by educational attainment.
- Earnings difference: median earnings among adults ages 25 and older whose highest degree is a high school diploma, an associate degree, or a bachelor’s degree.
- Tax revenue: the median individual state income tax revenue generated from adults ages 25 and older who have a high school diploma compared to those who have a bachelor’s degree.
- Attainment levels: the percentages of adults aged 25-64 who have completed some college, an associate degree, or a bachelor’s degree or higher. The subbacalaureate certificate attainment rate is measured for 2016 and after.
- International perspectives: the percentage of adults aged 25-34 who have an associate degree or higher among OECD nations.
- Attainment levels: the percentages of adults aged 25-64 who have completed some college, an associate degree, or a bachelor’s degree or higher by race and ethnicity.
Data sources are provided at the bottom of each indictor page. Data for most indicators were derived from several public sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Education, National Student Clearinghouse, State Higher Education Executive Officers, and the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs.
This interactive dashboard was developed by the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC). Legislatively created, MHEC’s purpose is to provide greater higher education opportunities and services in the Midwestern region. MHEC fulfills its statutory responsibilities by working with the Compact member states to create solutions that build higher education’s capacity to better serve individuals, institutions, and states by leveraging the region’s resources, expertise, ideas, and experiences through multi-state convening, programs, research, and contracts.