Waiting on that end-of-semester report card can be a nail-biting experience, but now each state must undergo the same stress of finding out their grades. The Institute for a Competitive Workforce (ICW), in partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, recently released the third publication of its Leaders and Laggards series, “A State-by-State Report Card on Public Postsecondary Education.”
Each state’s report card was based on six criteria: student access to success, efficiency and cost-effectiveness, meeting the labor market demand, transparency and accountability, policy environment and innovation.
Former U.S Education Secretary and current President of the ICW, Margaret Spellings, said the purpose of this report is, “to look at how states are doing in preparing students for jobs after college and the value state taxpayers are getting in meeting the demands of local economies and employers.”
BYU was not evaluated alongside Utah’s state institutions because of its private affiliation, but some might wonder how BYU is doing as a university in preparing its students for the workforce. The same criteria the ICW graded each state on can be applied to BYU.
Student access to success
It has become increasingly common for students nationwide to require longer than four years to complete their post-secondary education, and this is even true for BYU students. The ICW reported an average of 70 percent of high school graduates in the United States that pursue a post-secondary education, but fewer than half of those receive their diploma within six years.
According to Forbes Magazine’s rating of America’s Best Colleges, BYU graduates only 31 percent of students within the traditional four years. However, BYU graduates 79 percent of students within six years, nearly 30 percent more than state schools.
Student access to financial aid for low-income students is another issue state schools face. BYU ensures significant access for low-income students to receive the high caliber education the university offers as 48 percent of students receive some sort of financial aid.
Efficiency and cost-effectiveness
LDS students spend about $18,840 in tuition to receive a Bachelor’s degree from BYU. However, the tuition-based cost, per student is actually about $75,400 according to 2012-2013 tuition rates. Members of the First Presidency have noted in numerous addresses that the Church subsidizes around 70 to 75 percent of tuition related costs for LDS students because BYU is one of the budgeted general academic operations of the Church. The 70 to 75 percent subsidies are funded primarily through tithing dollars, according to University Controller Doug Belliston.
Belliston also noted that the average 70:30 ratio of church support versus tuition funding BYU spends per student corresponds to the ratio of support state schools receive from state budgets to educate students, though that ratio varies. However, many states have pulled away from this degree of support in recent years as a result of the declining economy and the ICW’s report shows that state tuition has risen at three times the rate of inflation.
“The Church’s support of education is reflective of the value they place upon education among our students,” Belliston said.
The Church’s direct affiliation with BYU ensures the continued support for BYU students.
Meeting the labor market demand
At BYU, “[there is] a great deal of assessment of our graduates to determine if they received value from their education,” Belliston said. “We carefully consider the insights and perspectives shared by our alumni as they participate in a series of assessment experiences after they leave campus.”
The ICW’s report noted the importance of universities tracking the success of their graduates once they reach the workforce, but only 22 states have the capability to do so. BYU’s commitment to post-graduate assessment shows that officials are not only interested in the financial success of BYU graduates, but also in the wide-ranging impact of BYU’s unique educational experience. Successful BYU alumni have frequent opportunities to serve as unofficial ambassadors for the university.
Transparency and accountability
Since BYU is a private university, it is not required to make its financial records publicly known like at state universities; however, the annual budget for BYU is submitted to the Church for approval, and every budget increase must be justified before more tithing dollars will be allocated.
Since there is a cap on how many students can attend BYU, the needs of the students rarely increase, and thus the budget is directly proportional to the needs of the students. The First Presidency has been transparent in disclosing how tithing dollars are reflected in BYU’s funding, and the proportion of those dollars that are spent on tuition-based costs.
Policy environment and innovation
An issue the ICW noticed was that many state institutions do not have goals in place to increase graduation rates and evaluate the efficiency of their educational systems. BYU has specific goals and requirements for graduates, and incentives to allow students to graduate in a timely manner. In order to receive a diploma, each student must complete at least 120 credits with a GPA of 2.0. Of those 120 credits, 30 are required to be taken on campus.
BYU does easily accept transfer credit from other post-secondary institutions. Many state institutions have embraced online learning as an innovative way of educating students. BYU also embraces this practice, offering over 220 courses via BYU Independent Study, although it only allows 36 credits of online courses to be applied toward graduation requirements.
The ICW’s mission in launching these report cards was to identify the leaders and the laggards of state schools in order to urge reform and promote transparency and improved measurement of student success in state institutions.
Although it is separate from this report, BYU has set high standards for itself as a private institution and outside entities such as Forbes Magazine and US News have classified BYU as a leader, ranking 136th out of America’s Best Colleges, and as a number 71 National University.