Jefferson City, Mo. -- Measuring Up 2008, a report produced by an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes higher education in the U.S., issued its national report cards on higher education today. Missouri's marks reflect the state's higher education achievements compared with the top five states in the nation for each category.

Missouri made "passing" grades in all categories except affordability, in which it received an "F" along with every other state except California. The categories and Missouri's grades are:

  • Preparation -- C+↑
  • Participation -- C↑
  • Affordability -- F↓
  • Completion -- B↑
  • Benefits -- C+↑
  • Learning -- I

States received an "Incomplete" in the Learning category because of insufficient data.

The grades are accompanied by an arrow that indicates how Missouri's current performance compares to a baseline established in the early 1990s. The arrows show gains in every area except affordability.

The Missouri Department of Higher Education completed an analysis using Measuring Up's data to show how the state's performance on key indicators in 2008 compares to its performance to the same indicators in 2006. Missouri has made gains in most categories, according to Commissioner of Higher Education Robert Stein.

"Incrementally, we are making progress," Stein said. "Since the early 1990s, Missouri has demonstrated improvement in each category, except in affordability. While Missouri continues to demonstrate improvement across many of these measures, the lower grades in Measuring Up 2008 indicate that the state is not keeping up with the progress of the top five performers in each category."

Comparisons to the Measuring Up 2006 report, however, show that over the past two years Missouri continues to improve in the preparation, participation, affordability and completion categories, while declining in the key indicator measuring the benefits of higher education. This relates to a slight decrease in the percentage of adults, ages 25 - 64, holding a bachelor's degree.

A summary of the basis for Missouri's grades includes:

Preparation -- The percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds with a high school credential in Missouri remained stable at 88 percent while the top states reached 94 percent.

Participation -- The percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in college actually declined slightly among national leaders, but increased slightly in Missouri (33 percent to 34.7 percent).

Affordability -- The percent of income required for attendance at public 4-year institutions decreased by 2 percent, from 31 to 29 percent, while the top states decreased from 16 percent to 10 percent.

Completions -- The number of students receiving certificates, degrees and diplomas at all college and universities per 100 students persisted at 18. The top states increased from 20 to 21.

Benefits -- The number of adults (age 25-64) with a bachelor?s degree in Missouri decreased from 31 percent to 27 percent, while the top states increased from 37 percent to 44 percent.

"The objective assessment of higher education provided by Measuring Up helps us identify those areas that need to be improved," Stein says. "To approach those improvements effectively will require policy makers, the public, and colleges and universities to work together to support changes that strengthen higher education in Missouri."