Missouri colleges plan move to performance funding - KMOV.com

Missouri colleges plan move to performance funding

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri colleges seeking more state money could soon have to show that the extra dough will help improve graduation rates, keep down costs and enable the schools to be more accountable to taxpayers.

Nearly 200 college and university presidents, provosts, governing board members, state lawmakers and other higher education leaders heard preliminary details Thursday about the move to "performance funding" at an annual higher education summit convened by Gov. Jay Nixon.

The solution isn't a new idea. Missouri was once considered a national model for its efforts to link funding of public colleges to such measurable accomplishments as graduation rates, course completion and research results. But the state abandoned that approach a decade ago amid an economic slide from which state higher education funding has yet to recover.

The approach has been embraced, however, by several states in recent years including Tennessee, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Louisiana.

"This will move us away from a system of spending money based solely on what an institution has received in the past, to a system where we invest money in those institutions that are meeting their goals and whose students are reaching their potential," Nixon said.

A task force of campus leaders from two-year and four-year schools will help develop the specific performance measures, with a report expected by year's end. Nixon said he hopes to have the plan in place for fiscal year 2013, which begins in 11 months.

As an example of how the funding model would work, Nixon said that if state appropriations for higher education increase by 5 percent, but a school only meets 60 percent of its goals, that institution would only receive a 3 percent boost.

Nixon said there will be a "small number of clear statewide goals," as well as one performance measure specific to each school.

Campus leaders reacted favorably to the announcement, which Nixon hinted at a year ago at his first higher education summit.

Tom George, chancellor of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said the approach is consistent with how his school and the other three Missouri system campuses already operate. He acknowledged, though, that the process allows for greater transparency and public accountability -- and could also mollify lawmakers who question the state's commitment to public higher education.

"We're all aboard to look into this. We do it internally already," he said. "Within the University of Missouri system, we have about 80 goals we commonly share. And each institution has their own that mesh with those."

Before Nixon's late afternoon announcement, George and his colleagues heard from a pair of national education consultants who described other states' experiences with performance funding.

Jane Wellman, executive director of the Delta Project on Postsecondary Costs, Productivity and Accountability, warned the audience that the model -- also known as performance-based budgeting -- has risen and dropped in popularity among policymakers through the years.

"I've seen these systems come and go," she said. "I've seen legislators and governors use them to try to assert too much control in academic decisions."

"There is reason to be skeptical," she added. "But in this budget environment, we have to take it seriously."

A 2002 Chronicle of Higher Education examination of Missouri's previous program, known as "Funding for Results," concluded that the eight-year effort "made only marginal improvements, or even lost ground" in many areas.

Further, the Chronicle found that "where public colleges have made progress, it is difficult to say with certainty that the existence of performance incentives brought about the improvements."

Nixon's predecessor, Republican Matt Blunt, sought support for performance-based funding in 2007, though the effort failed to gain much steam in the Capitol.

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