Col­lege fund­ing model ad­vances

Gover­nor will re­view pro­posal

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - BRIAN FANNEY

A new fund­ing model that em­pha­sizes achieve­ment over en­roll­ment ad­vanced Fri­day af­ter the Arkansas Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Co­or­di­nat­ing Board voted to re­view poli­cies gov­ern­ing the change.

The pro­posed pol­icy was re­viewed with­out dis­sent or dis­cus­sion. It will now be re­viewed by Gov. Asa Hutchin­son and law­mak­ers be­fore re­turn­ing to the board for a fi­nal vote.

Maria Markham, direc­tor of the Arkansas Depart­ment of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion, said af­ter the meet­ing that the changes would match state fund­ing with goals.

“Ev­ery­thing in it aligns with the strate­gic goals for the state … rais­ing the at­tain­ment rate of all of Arkansas and then spe­cific groups of un­der­rep­re­sented peo­ple in the state,” she said. “It’s just im­por­tant to align our fund­ing with our goals, and in the past that isn’t nec­es­sar­ily what we’ve done.”

The model is also a pri­or­ity for Hutchin­son, who has pledged an ad­di­tional $10 mil­lion for the state’s 11 pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties and 22 pub­lic com­mu­nity col­leges if the change is adopted.

No col­lege or univer­sity would lose money in the first year of the for­mula’s im­ple­men­ta­tion.

How­ever, pre­lim­i­nary data from the Arkansas Depart­ment of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion in­di­cate that — with­out the one-year sus­pen­sion of fund­ing cuts — three four-year uni­ver­si­ties and 13 two-year col­leges would take a hit.

Of the four-year schools, the Univer­sity of Arkansas at Mon­ti­cello had the

largest pro­duc­tiv­ity de­crease, ac­cord­ing to a draft doc­u­ment, while the Univer­sity of Arkansas, Fayetteville had the big­gest in­crease.

Of the two-year schools, the Univer­sity of Arkansas Com­mu­nity Col­lege at Rich Moun­tain in Mena had the largest pro­duc­tiv­ity de­crease, ac­cord­ing to draft num­bers, while Arkansas State Univer­sity-New­port had the largest pro­duc­tiv­ity in­crease.

Of­fi­cials noted some changes are likely in the draft num­bers be­cause of data qual­ity is­sues that are be­ing re­solved.

Rep. Jana Della Rosa, R-Rogers, a mem­ber of the House Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mit­tee, said she had con­cerns about what a pro­duc­tiv­ity de­crease in the draft doc­u­ment could mean for North­west Arkansas Com­mu­nity Col­lege in Ben­tonville.

“I’m not happy with that be­cause [the Ben­tonville col­lege] has been un­der­funded, good­ness, for years,” she said. “They’ve con­stantly been strug­gling.”

Della Rosa voted for the bill au­tho­riz­ing the fund­ing change dur­ing a com­mit­tee meet­ing af­ter the Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment promised the fi­nal for­mula — which was not part of the bill — would come back to the com­mit­tee for re­view.

“They were ask­ing us to pass some­thing and there was no ac­tual for­mula in there,” she said. “It autho­rized them to change the for­mula based on this very, very wide de­scrip­tion of pa­ram­e­ters.”

Markham said she ex­pected the pol­icy re­viewed by the board Fri­day to come be­fore the House and Se­nate Ed­u­ca­tion com­mit­tees on Sept. 18.

Act 148 of 2017, spon­sored by Rep. Mark Low­ery, R-Maumelle, autho­rized the Arkansas Depart­ment of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion to de­velop rules to im­ple­ment the new fund­ing model.

The model would re­ward col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties that be­stow more cre­den­tials — like work­force cer­tifi­cates or diplo­mas — and help more stu­dents progress to­ward de­grees.

The suc­cess of trans­fer stu­dents, the num­ber of stu­dents who com­plete in­tro­duc­tory cour­ses, the time it takes stu­dents to earn de­grees and the cred­its stu­dents have upon com­ple­tion also would be weighted to de­ter­mine a school’s fund­ing.

The model aims to re­ward re­search and pro­vide more money to small col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties that don’t have the same economies of scale as larger schools.

Groups — such as un­der­rep­re­sented mem­bers of mi­nor­ity groups — would be weighted more heav­ily in the model.

There’s also an ef­fi­ciency gauge that looks at in­struc­tional salaries vs. ad­min­is­tra­tive salaries per stu­dent and would re­ward schools that have lower ad­min­is­tra­tive costs.

“Ev­ery­body’s suc­cess counts, but those peo­ple who have higher gaps in at­tain­ment rates, who are maybe a lit­tle bit more dif­fi­cult to serve — more ex­pen­sive to serve — they’re weighted a lit­tle more heav­ily to con­tinue to at­tract those stu­dents re­ally well and pro­vide the re­sources to those in­sti­tu­tions to pro­vide re­ally good ser­vices,” Markham said.

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