Forum speaker Laura Perna addresses state of higher education in Illinois

by The College of Education   /   Nov 02, 2011

Dr. Laura Perna, professor in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, addressed “The Performance and State Policies of Higher Education in Illinois” on October 13 on the University of Illinois campus.

Perna discussed lessons learned from a five-state policy review project about the connections between public policy and changes in higher education performance. The five states included in the review project were Illinois, Georgia, Maryland, Texas, and Washington.

“One finding from our study pertains to the failure of the state of Illinois to allocate available fiscal resources strategically to achieve statewide goals and priorities for higher education,” Perna said.

“This is a finding that is also emerging across the four other states in our study,” she added. “It is significant in part because current constraints on state funding for higher education are projected to continue into at least the near future.” 

Perna suggested that more money is likely not the solution and suggested a need to develop policy leadership capacity, particularly in Illinois. She emphasized that the findings were preliminary. The results of the study should be released later this year.

The study posed fundamental questions about higher education performance, context, and policy levers to increase performance. Data were collected and analyzed from state reports and documents, quantitative data, and more than 150 interviews. The findings were presented according to five themes that emerged across the five states in the study: state planning and leadership, strategic use of available fiscal resources, capacity of higher education systems, collaboration and cooperation across educational sectors and levels, and stratification of higher education opportunity.

"Dr. Perna's study on higher education performance represents some of the most timely and important research in our field,” said Debra Bragg, Director of the Forum on the Future of Public Education, and Professor in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership.

Perna’s talk was sponsored by the The Forum on the Future of Public Education at the College of Education, which is supported by the Richard E. and Ann M. O’Leary Fund.

Learn more about The Forum on the Future of Public Education.