Conceptualizing and Measuring Productivity in U.S. Higher Education
Data sources in higher education are now more comprehensive than ever, enabling researchers and policymakers to conduct carefully considered performance assessments.
Discussions about the productivity and performance of higher education have become more nuanced, reflecting an understanding that one-dimensional measures are insufficient for most policy, operation and consumer information purposes. The limitations of unit cost, graduation rate, time to degree, and similar metrics, while essential components of an information dashboard, are well understood. And efforts to measure the inputs and outputs of higher education production, and to address the quality dimensions of each component alongside quantities, have accelerated. The findings in this paper reflect these developments as well as advances in the modeling of economic concepts applied to the sector.
This paper is one of five in the TIAA Institute Higher Education Series: Understanding Academic Productivity. The TIAA Institute undertook this initiative in support of the National Association of College and University Business Officers’ Economic Models Project, which aims to provide colleges and universities with knowledge, ideas and tools to advance the difficult structural, cultural and political changes required for moving to more sustainable economic models.