Legislators use report to better understand U

Policy report answers the call government officials often make for accountability in higher education.

by Patricia Drey

The Plan, Performance and Accountability report the University will send to the Legislature this year is much more than a stack of paper to at least one team of University employees.

“We live and breathe this report until it’s done,” said John Ziegenhagen, director of Institutional Evaluation and Accountability Studies.

The report includes rankings that place the University against other research universities, as well as information on income and expenses, and student survey data.

Ziegenhagen said he and policy analyst Sandra Ecklein have spent most of their working hours on the approximately 180-page report for the last three months.

Although the report is the third with this title, it combines information once contained in three separate reports. For the first time, the report will be made into a Web site that is updated whenever new data is available.

University officials said this report answers the call government officials often make for accountability in higher education.

This year’s report will include more national rankings, more discussion of retention and graduation rates and more data on research dollars the University is attracting, Ziegenhagen said.

This report is a leader among similar reports from other schools – responding to requests from federal and state legislators for more accountability in higher education, Ziegenhagen said.

“I think it’s exciting to work on a project where the University is taking a leadership role,” Ziegenhagen said.

Rep. Doug Fuller, R-Bemidji, said the University does a good job overall of communicating with the Legislature, and he has a lot of respect for the university.

Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, said he did not have significant problems with the University. Skoe also said he is glad the University is making the report available online.

“The heart of that issue revolves around the public having faith in them,” Skoe said. “That will be reflected in the public representatives, the legislators.”

The consolidated report will be more useful to the Legislature because it will better integrate information that used to be in separate reports, University Executive Vice President and Provost Christine Maziar said.

Maziar said she hopes legislators use the report as a “go-to document” to better understand the University.

The report will be complete in early February, and Maziar will present it to the Board of Regents on Feb. 13.