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About ENI

Educational Needs Index Project

Description of the Educational Needs Index Project
The Education Needs Index (ENI) is a regional-level study of educational, economic, and population pressures that influence educational policy and planning at local, regional, and state levels. The index introduces an econometric model that assesses conditions and trends for all fifty states and their respective sub-regions and allows peer comparisons across a variety of indicators. The ENI offers a fresh opportunity and innovative approach to better understanding existing data and public policy challenges that each state faces.

This website highlights the ENI project and provides users with state level reports, sub-state data sets, and searchable query tools that can be used to create peer comparisons. The data and associated analyses seek to identify areas of each state – urban, suburban, and rural – where educational attainment and economic challenges are exacerbated by robust population growth and shifting demographics. The ENI project offers a valuable public policy tool for researchers, public officials, and education leaders and advocates. In recent years, the ENI has been particularly useful to state and regional officials as all work to build a case for the real needs for education and training. The ENI positions the data to be of use in these discussions and encourages debate and questions regarding the current and emerging workforce in given areas. Included among these efforts utilizing the ENI are the following:

  • Regional education organizations have used the ENI in their outreach and policy/planning discussions.
  • Postsecondary leaders in multiple states have included the ENI analysis in developing strategies for better dealing with educational access challenges and understanding barriers to participation.
  • The project has aided several organizations in the development of grant proposals and building a case for need and importance of selected areas.
  • Institutional researchers have found the ENI to be helpful in strengthening the depth and scope of their environmental scanning activities.
  • State-level and multi-campus systems have used the ENI as a supporting resource for strategic planning purposes.
  • Educational systems seeking the establishment of P-16 regional networks have employed the ENI in raising awareness of the growing importance of partnerships.
  • Various education, economic development, and advocacy groups have found the comparison data at local, regional, and state levels to be particularly useful in public presentations seeking to inform the public debate surrounding the relationship between education and the economy.

At its heart, the Educational Needs Index project is intended to increase public awareness of these matters and create a conversation about the challenges that states and their cities and counties face in the present and future. Because these challenges cut across state lines, the ENI offers a unique opportunity to identify regions of the country that are facing comparable pressures.

Key Questions Asked by the ENI about Each State

  • What is the current level of educational attainment of the state and its respective sub-regions?
  • What is the current health of each of the state’s sub-regions from an economic perspective?
  • Are there areas in the state that are quickly growing and/or have shifting demographics that skew toward youth, young adults, or at-risk minority groups?
  • What regions in the state can be identified by the ENI to be undereducated, facing economic challenges, and facing robust population growth and shifting demographics in categories of youth, young adults, or at-risk minority groups?

History and Background of the ENI
The Educational Needs Index originated in 1999 from the research of Dr. Houston Davis and Dr. Brian Noland at the request of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. At that time, the model only documented and described the challenges facing the 95 counties of Tennessee. Various adaptations of this early research were presented at numerous scholarly conferences, with the final state-level research project and index construction methodology being accepted for publication in the Journal of Social Indicators Research (February 2003). The researchers also created comparable models for West Virginia and Alabama at the request of higher education officials in those respective states.

The next phase in the model’s evolution represented a regional focus on behalf of each of the sixteen member states of the Southern Governors’ Association (SGA). Initial support for this regional analysis was provided through a grant from Tennessee Tomorrow Inc., a subsidiary of the BellSouth Corporation. The research was presented in October 2003 at the annual meeting of the Southern Governors’ Association (SGA) in Charleston, WV. Following successful integration of the project into state-level policy discussions throughout the Southern states, Lumina Foundation for Education funded the project on a national scale. Launching the ENI Project and, the analysis and data is now available for all 50 states and their respective cities and counties. In addition to urban and rural policy audit projects involving sixteen states, the ENI has also been brought to a regional scale as the model has been utilized by organizations such as the Southern Regional Education Board, Midwestern Higher Education Compact, and the Council of State Governments (Midwest) to inform planning and policy development discussions and processes.

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Developed with Support from:
Created by Staff from:
Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education Tennessee Higher Education Commission NCHEMS Austin Peay State University West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission