Gov. Asa Hutchinson dangled a $10 million carrot in front of colleges and universities today in return for linking their funding to “productivity.”
If the legislature approves, he said Arkansas would become the fifth state — after Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio and Oregon — to move from funding based on strictly enrollment to a formula that takes into account “accountability, student success and program completion.”
Hutchinson didn’t run the arithmetic, but the additional $10 million would be on top of $826 million budgeted in general revenue support for colleges and universities this year, or an increase of about 1.2 percent.
This further explanation was offered in a prepared statement:
Productivity-based funding can be used to align institutional funding with statewide priorities for higher education by encouraging programs and services focused on student success and incentivizing progress toward statewide goals. At the same time, such models encourage accountability to students and policymakers by focusing on the success of students through the achievement of their educational goals. Any new funding model must be built around a set of shared principles embraced by institutions, employing appropriate outcomes metrics, and aligned with goals and objectives for post-secondary attainment in our state and encouraging accountability to stakeholders
Where success equals graduation rates, it should be noted that schools vary widely, led by those with the highest quality student bodies as measured by test scores. The Higher Educating Coordinating Commission approved the governor’s proposal and Benji Hardy noted some potential problems then, including a temptation to inflate results to meet funding goals.
The governor’s statement:
“I am pleased to demonstrate my support for the Higher Education Productivity Funding Model by announcing a $10 million increase to higher education funding conditioned on passage of this reform. I have no higher priority for the upcoming session than to see funding for our universities geared more towards the success of our students. The purpose of this additional funding is to incentivize efficiency and outcomes for our institutions of higher learning, and I appreciate the support this proposal has received from college and university presidents across the state.
“My goal continues to be increasing the percentage of Arkansans that are career-ready and equipped with degrees and industry-recognized certificates. This new revolutionary funding model will help us achieve those goals, and I look forward to working with the legislature to make it a reality.”
Dr. Maria Markham, Director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, said:
“Productivity funding will play a central role in achieving the strategic goals set forth in the Higher Ed Master Plan. Aligning funding with the priorities of our state will motivate institutions to focus efforts on initiatives that will improve outcomes for students and elevate the available workforce in Arkansas.
“Moving away from an enrollment-based method of funding and holding ourselves accountable for student success sends a strong message that Arkansas colleges and universities are committed to making positive change. Your Arkansas institutions of higher learning will rise to the challenges before them and demonstrate their value to the residents of our state. I commend and thank Governor Hutchinson for his support of the productivity funding model and making furthering higher education a priority.”
College leaders are on board. Statements of support came from Dr. Donald Bobbitt, president of the University of Arkansas System; Dr. Charles Welch, president of the Arkansas State University System; Dr. Laurence Alexander, chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff; and Bill Stovall, executive director of the Arkansas Community Colleges. Also said to be supporting are Southern Arkansas University, Henderson State University, University of Central Arkansas, and Arkansas Tech University.