The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released its annual Leaders and Laggards report last week. Overall it paints a dismal portrait of American higher education, but there are some bright spots. The reason for the report, according to the Chamber, includes the fact that:

Tuition rates have grown at three times the rate of inflation in recent decades, prompting students, employers, and policymakers alike to question how efficiently and effectively our institutions of higher education are using the precious resources made available to them.

Students who enrolled in public colleges three years ago now face tuition as much as 50% to 80% higher in some states—reflecting a model of postsecondary education that is expensive, inefficient, and slow to change.

Seventy percent of our high school graduates now move on to some form of postsecondary education, but fewer than half of those who enroll finish a degree or certificate within six years.

There is a growing skepticism among employers about whether those lucky enough to graduate have acquired the skills and knowledge necessary for success in the 21st century economy.

The report grades higher education in the states according to six factors, including student access and success, cost-effectiveness, meeting market demand, accountability, policy environment, and innovation.

Based on my tally of all the states’ grades for each category the best and worst states in terms of two-and four-year higher education are:






Below are the leaders and laggards for each category:


Student Access & Success

Four-Year Leaders: California, Florida, and Washington

Four-Year Laggards: Alaska, Idaho, Louisiana, and Nevada

Two-Year Leaders: North Dakota, and South Dakota

Two-Year Laggards: Alaska, Nevada, and New Mexico


Efficiency & Cost-Effectiveness

Four-Year Leaders: Colorado, Oregon, Texas, and Virginia

Four-Year Laggards: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, and Wyoming

Two-Year Leaders: Florida, Georgia, and Kentucky

Two-Year Laggards: Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Oregon, and Wyoming


Meeting Labor Market Demand

Four-Year Leaders: Michigan, Alabama, and Virginia

Four-Year Laggards: Montana, West Virginia, Vermont, and North Dakota

Two-Year Leaders: Michigan, Alabama, Mississippi, Maryland, and Alaska

Two-Year Laggards: Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire, and New Mexico


Transparency & Accountability

Four-Year Leaders: Texas, Minnesota, and Connecticut

Four-Year Laggards: Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina

Two-Year Leaders: Connecticut, Minnesota, and Texas

Two-Year Laggards: Arizona, Maine, and New Hampshire


Policy Environment

Leaders: Louisiana, Indiana, Ohio, and Tennessee

Laggards: Delaware, and Michigan



Online Learning Leaders: Florida, and Georgia

Online Learning Laggards: Arkansas, Delaware, Nevada, and Vermont

Openness to Providers Leaders: Hawaii, and South Dakota

Openness to Providers Laggards: Massachusetts, and Oregon