State Political Culture, Higher Education Spending Indicators, and Undergraduate Graduation Outcomes

State Political Culture, Higher Education Spending Indicators, and Undergraduate Graduation Outcomes

Issue/Topic: Postsecondary Affordability; Postsecondary Success--Completion
Author(s): Heck, Ronald H.; Lam, Wendy S.; Thomas, Scott L.
Organization(s): University of Hawaii; Hawaii Pacific University; Claremont Graduate University
Publication: Educational Policy
Published On: 1/2/2014

Issues concerning higher education today (e.g., rising costs, declining public trust, changing state economics) have created new demands for postsecondary institutions to demonstrate their productivity.

To examine whether state higher education finance policy indicators differ according to states' political cultures (i.e., underlying traditions, values, and public policy choices) and to examine how states' higher education financial policy influences student graduation rates (controlling for institutional and economic variables)

Policy activity never takes place in a vacuum. Differing state political and economic contexts concerning postsecondary capacity, patterns of higher education spending, and tuition setting appear to intersect in ways that affect higher education productivity over time. 
Policy Implications/Recommendations:
Differences between states' political cultures regarding higher education policy choices may help explain differences in institutional productivity across states and provide alternative contexts for making policy choices.

Full text of study available at:
Research Design:
Use of longitudinal data on state indicators institutional and institutional variables that explain differences in graduation rates compiled over an 11-year period

Data concerning graduation rates, states' economic indicators, legislative appropriations for higher eduction, family share of higher education costs.

Year data is from:


Data Collection and Analysis:
Institutional data were obtained from NCES's Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. More than 647 public, four-year institutions in 50 states from 1997 to 2007 were identified. State-level data were obtained from The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) website. Primary analyses concern a series of multilevel latent change models that examine how state indicators, political structure and institutional variables were related to graduation rates.

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