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Lawmakers take another crack at higher education funding formula | News, Sports, Jobs

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Steven Allen Adams
CAPEHART — Bluefield State College President Robin Capehart stated a proposed performance-based funding mannequin for public faculties and universities incentivizes the mistaken issues.

CHARLESTON — Much just like the Holy Grail, a performance-based funding formula for West Virginia’s higher education and neighborhood school system has proved elusive, however state lawmakers plan to make another try.

Members of the Joint Standing Committee on Finance met Monday morning within the House of Delegates chamber on the second day of November legislative interim conferences.

Committee members have been joined by presidents and representatives of a number of state faculties and universities, in addition to officers with the Higher Education Policy Commission for a overview of discussions concerning a higher education funding formula for the state’s four-year and two-year establishments.

HEPC Chancellor Sarah Tucker stated higher education officers are contemplating a performance-based funding formula based mostly on one developed by the state of Tennessee. The discussions started at the start of 2020 previous to the COVID-19 pandemic and resumed in 2021. Lawmakers acceptable greater than $400 million yearly for the state’s public faculties and universities.

“There is a large consensus across the presidents that the model that works best in the country is Tennessee’s funding formula model,” Tucker stated. “Rather than trying to recreate the wheel, we looked to Tennessee to see what they did and how we might implement their model in the State of West Virginia, not necessarily taking everything Tennessee did but taking the pieces that Tennessee did that we thought made sense for us and adjusting as necessary.”

The Tennessee mannequin distributes public funding based mostly on instructional outcomes, together with the variety of diploma awards, scholar credit-hour accumulation benchmarks, and the variety of levels and certificates granted per a set variety of full-time college students. State higher education officers are proposing two separate efficiency funding fashions, one for the state’s 10 four-year faculties and universities, and one for the state’s 9 neighborhood and technical faculties.

Metrics being thought-about in West Virginia embrace specializing in commencement, the variety of college students progressing from one grade degree to the following; accumulating credit score hours, and completion of affiliate levels, bachelor’s levels, grasp’s levels, doctorates and certificates; college students who switch from a two-year college to a four-year college; analysis and improvement progress. The metrics are weighted, together with in direction of faculties which have extra low-income college students enrolled.

“We have to incentivize our institutions to make sure they’re going after students who may be more difficult to get through,” Tucker stated. “It may be more difficult to get a first-generation rural student through college than a student who is high achieving and comes from a family background where lots of people have gone to college. We’re weighting for that in this model.”

Tucker stated the proposed fashions are additionally weighted in direction of faculties and universities who steer college students in direction of high-demand fields. Only the state’s three medical faculties at Marshall, WVU, and the West Virginia School for Osteopathic Medicine are excluded from the funding formula as a result of complexity of making an attempt to measure efficiency at these faculties.

A higher education funding formula has lengthy been a purpose of Republican lawmakers. Two years after taking the bulk within the House and the state Senate, the Legislature requested the HEPC to create a pilot program for a performance-based funding mannequin for the state’s four-year faculties and universities in 2017.

That pilot mission was placed on maintain after Gov. Jim Justice created the Blue Ribbon Commission on Four-Year Higher Education in July 2018. Despite a ultimate report being due at the top of 2018, the fee dissolved with solely a handful of suggestions, together with a short-term funding mannequin.

Instead, the blue ribbon fee spent most of its six-month existence preventing over a proposal to finish the HEPC in favor of a proposed Office of Post-Secondary Education that might have deregulated the state’s 10 public faculties and universities, giving their boards of governors extra energy.

West Virginia’s two largest four-year faculties, West Virginia University and Marshall University, help the Tennessee mannequin adopted by HEPC. The West Virginia Council of Presidents representing the remaining in-state faculties and universities additionally helps the mannequin.

“I’m very enthusiastic,” stated WVU President E. Gordon Gee. “The Tennessee model has always been sort of the gold standard. It’s based upon performance, it’s based upon accountability, and it’s also based on simplicity and agility.”

“This modified Tennessee model is an appropriate model for our system here in West Virginia, and we think it is one that will work,” stated Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert. “It’s a simple model, and the simpler we make it the better in terms of being able to be understood … I think it is fair and objective.”

“The presidents are in support of this model because … it is simple, it is equitable and it makes us accountable,” stated Mira Martin, president of Fairmont State University and president of the West Virginia Council of Presidents. “We wish to support a model that equitably and fairly distributes funds to universities based on the work they do to educate the next generation of leaders in West Virginia that keeps that next generation here in West Virginia.”

The HEPC’s performance-based funding proposal didn’t sit nicely with all higher education representatives Monday. Robin Capehart, president of Bluefield State College, and Casey Sacks, appearing president of BridgeValley Community and Technical College, raised plenty of considerations concerning the proposed mannequin, together with utilizing job placement and wages for metrics, and creating incentives to bolster hard-to-serve populations.

“The students who complete engineering degrees clearly make more than students who are in childcare or early childhood education,” Sacks stated. “That’s fine, but we don’t want to create incentives where colleges stop doing things, like creating early childhood education majors. We have to think about programs not just by wage, but by the outcome for our state and the outcome for the labor market.”

Capehart stated the HEPC proposed formula doesn’t present goal requirements no matter measurement of establishment and actions, and it incentivizes sure outcomes when incentives exist already, reminiscent of incentives to maneuver college students from freshmen to sophomores and need-based support.

“If we’re going to incentivize the institutions of higher education in anything, it needs to be to meet these workforce needs,” Capehart stated. “If Aunt Ethel has to wait another three hours because there’s not enough medical personnel in the back, they don’t really care that we graduated another 500 political science majors or not … part of the problem we have now is the structure where we have to get program approval. By the way, one state that does not have program approval? Tennessee.”

(Adams may be contacted at sadams@newsandsentinel.com)



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