Reflecting the national trend to outcomes-based education funding, Georgia’s public colleges will now earn dollars based on how many students earn diplomas rather than how many enroll.
Tennessee has led the nation in this effort, eliminating enrollment as a funding criteria for its public colleges. (For a story on the Tennessee funding formula and how it works, go here.)
To look at Tennessee’s actual program, go to this state presentation. This Tennessee Higher Education Commission presentation includes actual data for colleges and details the weighting formula.
“The outcomes-based funding formula bases the entire institutional allocation of state appropriations on the basis of outcomes including degree production, research funding and graduation rates at universities, and student remediation, job placements, student transfer and associates degrees at community colleges,” according to the commission.
I attended a presentation last year on the Tennessee formula where I learned that all state funding is back up for grabs every year. No institution is entitled to any minimal level of appropriation based on prior-year funding. State appropriations have to be earned anew each year. The goal was to to stop rewarding campuses for enrollment growth — for getting students in the door — and reward them instead for getting students out the door with degrees.
The Complete College Tennessee Act was only passed in 2010 so it is too early to assess its impact on grad rates but colleges are taking student advisement more seriously. Here is a PolitiFact Tennessee review of the changes already visible on Tennessee campuses.
Ultimately, it is students who earn degrees, and therefore I believe that the source of Tennessee’s problems with graduation and retention rates lie largely in the student’s own individual histories – the personal and financial obstacles that they face, and their lack of adequate academic preparation for college level work. Although we may have only limited influence on the former, we can address the preparation of students en masse if we can generate a cultural shift in our state. We must create an “education culture,” where educational achievement is given the highest priority at every level of society, from teachers and students to parents and, yes, political leaders. If political leaders wish to contribute to the creation of such a culture, they must, as the saying goes, “put their money where their mouth is,” and increase educational investment across the board in our state.
Now, Georgia is following Tennessee’s lead.
According to the AJC:
A commission appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal approved a new formula Wednesday that links the state funding colleges receive to their improving student success and the number of degrees or certificates awarded. The plan, which won’t go into effect for a couple of years, represents a drastic shift from the current system that focuses on enrollment and how many credits students take, with little attention paid to whether they ever graduate.
The new formula is one of a series of steps Georgia is taking that acknowledges the state’s economic future depends on colleges producing a more skilled workforce to attract and keep employers. The formula is “important to the future direction of our state, ” Deal told the commission. “This actually is probably one of the most important final pieces in the puzzle.” Deal will officially receive the formula report before the end of the year, and the change does not require approval from the state Legislature.
The 2015 fiscal year allotment will provide a base funding moving forward, said Kristin Bernhard, Deal’s education policy adviser. Starting with the 2016 fiscal year, colleges would earn or lose money based on whether they improve. So far, Tennessee is the only state where 100 percent of public college funding is tied to outcomes. Nearly a dozen states are working on plans to tie at least some portion, if not all, of college funding to performance goals.
Georgia’s new formula ties funding to how well students progress through college and the number of degrees awarded. While progression is rewarded, the formula focuses on “outcomes, ” such as the number of certificates awarded by technical colleges and the number bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees awarded by research universities such as the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech.
Colleges can receive extra money if they succeed with students who are known to struggle the most in school. This incentive money is tied to adult learners, who are 25 or older, and low-income students, as measured by those who receive the federal Pell Grant. Schools may also be rewarded for how well they meet certain initiatives that help Georgia’s workforce needs. Specifics are still being determined, but the technical colleges may want to consider work placement, while universities may focus on the number of science, math, technology and engineering graduates, Bernhard said.
The formula will determine how much money the state allocates to the two systems. The systems will still decide how to divvy up that lump sum among their colleges. Georgia spends about 11 percent of its state budget on public colleges, but only 44 percent of students attending a public four-year college graduate in six years. Projections show that by 2020 about 60 percent of jobs will require education after high school, although only 42 percent of Georgians meet that standard.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog