The Chair of the House subcommittee that deals with education funding says he will recommend the legislature put off a performance-based funding mechanism for state-supported colleges and universities.
Cedarcreek Republican Lyle Rowland’s subcommittee heard from those institutions’ presidents over the course of two days and said many of them wanted the same things: a delay in implementation of that plan, and a restoration of their core funding.
The state budget proposed last month by Governor Eric Greitens (R) would cut higher education funding by 10-percent, or roughly $100-million, from its Fiscal Year 2018 level. Also in early January, the Coordinating Board for Higher Education approved linking 10-percent of funding for publicly-backed colleges and universities to performance factors such as students’ job placement, degree completion, and budgetary practices. The model would look back at institutions’ performance over the past three years.
The combination means it is possible, though unlikely, that any given institution could see a decrease of as much as 20-percent in year-to-year state support.
Rowland said he agrees with the institution presidents who told him implementing performance-based funding now puts them at a disadvantage.
“[Institutions] didn’t know what their standards were going to be. They didn’t know how to change their operation of their colleges and universities to help meet those goals,” said Rowland. “With them not knowing what standards were, what those areas of concern are going to be, they have no way of implementing it, so it was going to hurt them financially. We don’t want to hurt them financially.”
He wants to postpone that plan for three years so that institutions will know what areas to work on before their support is tied to them.
“We want to give them the opportunity to build up before we start with the funding model and then let’s put x-amount of new dollars into performance funding then and if you’re not meeting it you’re not going to get all of that funding. We’re going to redistribute that to the other schools and universities.”
Rowland’s panel on Wednesday heard from University of Missouri System President Mun Choi, who touted to lawmakers the system’s accomplishments but coupled that with words of caution.
He said 90-percent of Mizzou’s students found a job within six months or moved on to graduate school; research is yielding advancements in the agriculture and medical fields; and Missouri S&T last summer beat out other universities from around the world in a competition to design a Mars rover.
Lincoln University Interim President Michael Middleton echoed Choi’s call for a restoration of core funding and a delay in the performance model.
“We are about as lean as we can be. We’re already seeing that giving multiple responsibilities to individuals affects our productivity, which I believe is reflected in the number of students we’re able to recruit and retain,” said Middleton. “With this [proposed] additional wave of cuts we are in a perfect storm with no clear break in the clouds.”
As for the proposed cut to core funding, Rowland said the governor’s proposal is not likely to stand, but given the state’s overall economic picture some reduction is probable.
“I’m sure there will be some cuts. What we’re trying to do is try to make it as little as possible,” said Rowland. “We’re hoping to be able to locate some things [elsewhere in the state budget] that we might be able to transfer into higher ed.”
The ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, Kip Kendrick (Columbia), has been one of several lawmakers expressing concern about the timing of performance-based funding. He thinks most legislators will agree it should be pushed back.
“Higher education institutions across the board were on the same message about this, whether they were going to receive an additional hit from the performance funding model or not,” said Kendrick. “Everybody was very tepid in having that implemented in a year where there is a potential for up to 10-percent of additional cuts to higher education. We can’t penalize institutions on top of the additional cuts that they’re receiving this year. It’s way too punitive and not the right year to implement it.”
Rowland will submit his recommendation to the full budget committee. That committee will develop its own state budget proposal to be considered by the full House. Eventually the House and Senate will have to agree on a state spending plan to be sent to the governor.