Thursday, March 24, 2011

Governors Urge Using Market Data to Guide Education Goals

In light of the United States’ recent focus on improving college enrollment and increasing the number of college graduates, governors in some states are working to approach those goals more strategically. Specifically, governors and policymakers of Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, and Washington State are trying to align the postsecondary education offered by public colleges and universities in their states with the market needs of their state’s economy.

A new report, “Degree for What Jobs?” published by the NGA Center for Best Practices says, “Higher education, including community colleges, four-year colleges, and research universities, cannot help drive economic growth in their states unless students’ academic success is linked to the needs of the marketplace.” The report asserts that while “any degree is better than no degree,” a degree can’t help lift the economy if it doesn’t fit the job marketplace.

The governors’ assertion makes sense, and their report suggests using market data to form state education goals. For example, the report illustrates the idea of moving from an existing state goal of achieving 500 new degrees annually, to a new state goal that first analyzes market data, then specifies the need for 200 new healthcare degrees and 300 new IT degrees, to arrive at a total 500 new degrees annually.

In a highly innovative, global economy, as higher education allows marketplace needs to guide degree and certificate offerings, the degrees and certificates that are produced will (1) help graduates find new jobs in the same field as the degree, and (2) benefit industries and economies.

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