Mississippi State University
French, P. Edward
Rush, Christine L.
Shoup, Brian D.
Date of Degree
Dissertation - Open Access
Department of Political Science and Public Administration
America’s founding fathers identified education as the key for sustaining democracy and economic growth. When determining how the new country would organize education, they decided not to centralize higher education institutions under a national university, thus creating a federalist system unique from the European model. This format allowed for diversity in educational missions, which many theorists suggest allows the country to serve its heterogeneous population. Many institutions that focus on social equity do not perform as high as institutions with selective admissions criteria. As governments begin enforcing accountability policies that encourage performance, institutions with social equity missions may be adversely affected. Furthermore, higher education leaders fear that the focus on performance downplays the role of educational effectiveness. This research developed an Educational Performance Index (EPI)—a tool that combines measures of efficiency, effectiveness, and equity—to serve as an evaluation instrument for higher education institutions. The results of the study indicated that social equity related missions do have a negative relationship to traditional efficiency metrics; however, the composite EPI was not influenced by institutional characteristics, such as Carnegie Classification and attributes indicative of social equity missions. By controlling for these mission-related features, institutional performance can be measured more comprehensively. A third hypothesis compared the EPI scores to those of traditional academic rankings to test whether the EPI was similar to existing measures. This hypothesis was partially supported, but it also excluded nearly half of the institutions in the study because they did not have regional rankings. Through an exploration of the literature, this study asserts that the way higher education is measured has consequences in how institutions fulfill their missions. Current performance measures both in terms of graduation rates and in terms of academic rankings promote social inequity. The conclusions of this study presents an alternative instrument that provides an accountability mechanism that does not disincentivize institutions from serving the public good.
Baham, Tracey L Norden, "Holding Performance Measures Accountablefor Social Equity: A Polycentric Approach to Evaluating American Higher Education" (2016). Theses and Dissertations. 2500.