April 20, 2014

Legislative panel considers higher education funding formula

The Joint Committee on Education has one meeting left to discuss what should go into a funding formula for higher education. The Committee’s second hearing featured discussion of how to measure performance of the state’s universities.

Senator David Pearce (Courtesy, Missouri Senate)

Chairman, Senator David Pearce, says the Coordinating Board for Higher Education recommends institutions not be rewarded for performance with existing funds. “So, we’re not going to be taking money away from existing institutions. Rather, it would be new funding that we would have for higher education. Now, that’s (the Coordinating Board’s) recommendation. I’m not saying that will be the recommendation of the Committee.”

Pearce says about 12 states are now basing higher education funding on performance. “Some, it’s just a very, very small percentage of their budget. In the state of Tennessee it’s nearly 100 percent of the budgets for the universities are based on performance.

“In these times of tough budgets and very tight dollars, we’ve got to make sure that our dollars are spent wisely and that those universities that are doing a good job are rewarded … and to show those universities that might not be doing well that they need to improve.”

Pearce says the formula will have to weigh the differences between institutions, which he says is challenging. “For example, you have some schools … there’s three universities … that are open enrollment. So, that means they take everyone that comes through their doors. Yet then you have some universities that are moderately selective and then those that are highly selective like the University of Missouri or Truman State.

“So, how do you compare all of those together? The answer is, you probably don’t. You have to come up with some standards to compare against themselves, or maybe find like institution in different states and compare them that way. Our community colleges, for example, are open enrollment. They might have to do a lot of remediation, but on the other hand they’re serving a very, very good public interest.”

The Committee must submit a recommendation by the end of next year, but Pearce says it is being proactive. “My thought is we will have an initial recommendation hopefully by the first of the year … that there might be some things that we can put in the legislature next session, but then we have to have it done a year from this December.”

The Committee meets one more time, November 14 at the Haverner Center at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla.