Missouri could move to develop a funding model for the state’s public colleges and universities. The Missouri House of Representatives is expected to debate a bill soon that is sponsored by Rep. Brenda Shields, R-St. Joseph.

In 2023, the Missouri Legislature approved $450,000 to create a funding model for the state’s higher education institutions. The state Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development contracted with the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems to conduct a review of state higher education performance funding models. The center came up with a recommended funding system for the state and reviewed efficiency measures for Missouri’s public colleges and universities.

The center compiled a report and delivered the results to the state last year.

“But unless we utilize the information in the report, it will be just another report that sits on the shelf that collects dust. This is why you have House Bill 2905,” Shields said. “This bill creates a timeline and a plan on how the higher education funding formula will be built and implemented. If the plan is approved, it will take three years to complete the plan.”

Her bill would include a process to designate core funding and a performance component designed to enhance student success and efficiency. The state department would be in charge of creating a plan for the testing and launching of the funding model.

Then the Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education would decide whether to adopt the system. From there, the state legislature would be asked to adopt the model.

Shields said her bill aims to provide a fair, stable, and sustainable funding source for higher education.

“We have not funded our public education system enough and we really have funded our higher institutions on the backs of our students,” Shields told a House committee.

Rep. Bill Allen, R-Kansas City, spoke about the proposal.

“I think there’s a great reckoning coming in higher education and this is coming just in time, I think, to model real base needs,” he said.

Rep. Barry Hovis, R-Whitewater, talked about a component of the bill, which would instruct the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development to work with public institutions to develop the model.

“If they’re going to work it out amongst themselves, it’s going to be like putting everybody in a shark tank because they’re all going to be trying to negotiate what’s going to benefit their particular school or system the most. If they came to me as a legislator, I’d say we just pay by per student the same amount because that’s as equitable as it gets. But some have higher costs than others do,” said Hovis.

“This will be a performance funding model,” said Shields. “We’ll make sure that we’re seeing the results that we want to see as the legislature, instead of just starting with this much money, and dividing it, and having individuals be able to add to the budget additional dollars. Right now, we just have a very subjective way of funding our higher education system.”

According to Shields, how much state funding goes to each public college and university would still be the Missouri Legislature’s decision.

Dustin Schnieders, with the University of Missouri System, said the system supports the bill. He said about 18 states have a performance-based funding system for higher education. According to Schnieders, their funding is based on things like graduation rates, degrees earned, placements, retention rates, and degrees offered.

Paul Wagner, with the Council on Public Higher Education, had some advice for lawmakers.

“Don’t tie yourselves too closely to this report,” he said. “Leave room for however this is developed for the folks who work on this over the next few years. Leave room for them to navigate all the issues that might come forward, that might not be within the structure of what that report put forward.”

Shields said the state will not simply do a little tweaking from the model compiled in the report.

“We’re using it as information to build from,” she said. “There’s work to be done. What came out of the report told us a lot and it told us that we have some issues. That’s what we’re trying to address.”

Leroy Wade, deputy commissioner with the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development, said the model will also need to evolve as higher education evolves.

During a committee hearing on the bill, no one spoke in opposition.

For more information on House Bill 2905, click here.

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