Designing State Higher Education Systems for a New Century

Article excerpt

Designing State Higher Education Systems For a New Century

By Richard C. Richardson, Kathy Reeves Bracco, Patrick M. Callan, Joni E. Finney

American Council on Education and the Oryx Press, 1999

219 pages; $34.95

How can the public influence the direction of higher education? How should the interests of the market, defined as public expectations, be balanced with the values inherent in higher education and the aspirations of academic professionals? At the statewide level, is there a preferred model for organizing a system of higher education? The authors of Designing State Higher Education Systems For a New Century discuss these questions and others in a provocative study of selected state systems of higher education in the United States.

Using a carefully constructed theoretical framework by which they believe a rational assessment can be achieved, the authors examine structures of higher education in seven states using the case study method. The states included are Michigan, California, New York, Florida, Georgia, Texas, and Illinois which were chosen to illustrate the principal configurations in place across the nation today.

Building on the work of others, the authors identify four policy roles that states are likely to use in influencing the direction of higher education within their jurisdictions. Those roles are identified as being a resource provider, engaging in regulation, promoting consumer advocacy, and policy steering. The authors also survey the structural arrangements of higher education governing boards in each of three settings: a segmented approach in which a board is responsible for one or more institutions; a unified system featuring all degree-granting institutions under a single governing board; and a federal system which employs a statewide board to gather information, monitor certain processes, and negotiate common rules and definitions across educational systems within its jurisdiction but does not function as a governing board. This mix of policy roles, structural designs, and states studied are brought together into a matrix which the authors have labeled, "the continuum of governance designs."

The authors make good use of case studies to illustrate the diversity of state systems of higher education. These case studies comprise one of the strengths of the study. A chapter is devoted to each of the seven states included and features a brief but informative description of the political and educational landscape circa 1994-95. The role of the governor as chief executive is discussed together with some evaluation relative to the strength of that office as compared with the legislature and educational interests across a state. The place of private or independent institutions of higher education is also noted in the context of the relationship of those institutions to that state's public system. As one might imagine, among the seven states studied, the role and prominence of the private educational sector varies widely.

Four work processes-information management, the budget process, program planning and review, and articulation-are used to provide a means by which policies and practices can be compared and contrasted. Essentially, a reader can quickly obtain a useful profile or understanding of how a particular state operates and the features that distinguish its higher education apparatus from that of the others. …