A proposed funding model for higher education in the state would reward progress in degree production and course completion while also offering funding for operational support.
Gov. Matt Bevin has proposed allocating higher education funding based on performance, but what that performance will entail has not been determined. As part of the process of determining a funding model, the General Assembly established a Postsecondary Education Working Group to provide a recommended model to the governor and legislators for the upcoming session.
The working group is chaired by Western Kentucky University President Gary Ransdell and is made up of other state university presidents, legislators and various state officials.
The Daily News obtained a cover letter that includes a summary of the recommendations, which were delivered to the governor and legislative leaders Dec. 1.
The recommendations are to tie 35 percent of funding to student success, which the summary describes as "funding directly to degree production and progression toward a degree or credential." The same 35 percent allocation is recommended for course completion, which is described as the number of credit hours awarded at each campus. The remaining 30 percent is recommended for "operational support," which is summarized as "critical expenses related to the maintenance and operation (M&O) of buildings dedicated to student learning (classrooms and teaching labs, libraries, etc.), the cost of instruction and student services (net of M&O), and the operational support of libraries, academic computing, etc."
The proposed funding model is similar for the state's community and technical colleges, according to the letter. As far as how much of higher education funding is allocated based on the performance model, the recommendation is to phase in the amount, starting with 5 percent. The phase-in approach and other recommendations in the plan are designed to "preclude large, destabilizing shifts in funds between and among campuses," according to the summary.
The letter summarizes the challenges of developing a funding plan:
"To achieve such a model, we needed to recognize that each of the public universities, and each of the colleges within KCTCS, have distinct and often significantly different missions that are tied to statutory directives, degree and program offerings, geography and the population of students being served. Despite these differences, each campus leader was willing to agree to certain components in the model that required them to accept compromises from what any of them might find ideal. We sought, and believe we have achieved, consensus among the public institutional leaders."
The letter also cautions that the funding model "will not, by itself, meet the growing needs of our state and our students to develop and support the workforce Kentucky needs to be a competitive economy in the 21st century. We believe that over time, additional investment in higher education will be necessary. In this regard, the model also can help define and measure those needs as future budget requests are developed."
Now, the recommendation is in the hands of the governor and legislators, who will reconvene Jan. 3.
Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg, is a member of the Postsecondary Education Working Group.
He said the state Senate has for years wanted to move to a funding model "based on the quality of work the institution is doing," adding that such performance-based funding is used in many other states.
He said Kentucky has been issuing higher education funding based simply on what colleges and universities have gotten previously.
Givens acknowledged that the process to develop a proposed funding model was at times "contentious" and said he was proud the committee came to a consensus and credited Ransdell for his leadership.
He said the end product will be "a guiding document" that will be used by legislators to craft a final bill, although there may be some modifications.
He said legislators purposefully started the percentage of funding at 5 percent "to motivate us to get the job done," and the state will move to 100 percent performance-based funding eventually.
Givens said he has not had a chance to discuss the plan yet with the governor, and Bevin's office did not return a call seeking comment.
Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, received a copy of the recommendations in his role as co-chair of the Interim Joint Committee on Education. He said he has only briefly looked at the report at this point.
"I've been talking to Sen. Givens (about the issue). I have a lot of confidence in his leadership," Wilson said.
Wilson said he wants to make sure any funding model incentivizes efforts to align programs between high schools and colleges to provide effective job training.
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