The storied State University of New York system today announced that in the future it will take an unprecedented step in public higher education: it will issue a report card. According to an Associated Press article in the Wall Street Journal:

The State University of New York, with more than 400,000 students and a budget of $11 billion, is releasing what it considers an unprecedented report card detailing how the nation’s biggest public system of higher education is performing.

“We are asking New Yorkers to hold us accountable,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, who took over in 2009. She said the annual report card, the first of which is to be released Tuesday, is unique in higher education.

What a novel idea. The idea of the report card “asking New Yorkers to hold us accountable” probably has to do with the 30 percent decline in state funding SUNY has suffered in the last three years.

That being said, it’s good to question how useful such a report card will be. The problem is that any true report card, telling the whole story, warts and all, should be issued by an independent body, not SUNY itself.

In fact, if SUNY issues the report it doesn’t really count as a report card at all; it’s more like the annual reports issued by corporations.

Annual reports are useful, for sure, but they’re also notoriously self-serving.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer