Twenty-six states now link college funding to student outcomes or are planning to do so, reports Complete College America. Twenty-two states are accelerating college remediation or placing students in “gateway” courses with added support. College graduation rates will start to rise in 2014, the group predicts.
“Speeding up college and making it cheaper risks dumbing it down,” according to some professors, reports Timothy Pratt in The Atlantic.
Under pressure to turn out more students, more quickly and for less money, and to tie graduates’ skills to workforce needs, higher-education institutions and policy makers have been busy reducing the number of required credits, giving credit for life experience, and cutting some courses, while putting others online.
Now critics are raising the alarm that speeding up college and making it cheaper risks dumbing it down.
. . . “We are creating Walmarts of higher education—convenient, cheap, and second-rate,” says Karen Arnold, associate professor at the Educational Leadership and Higher Education Department at Boston College.
The Campaign for the Future of Higher Education — mostly university professors — will meet in January to discuss the rise of online courses and performance-based funding.
If states fund universities based on measures such as graduation rates, rather than enrollment, faculty will face a “subtle pressure” to pass more students, says Rudy Fichtenbaum, president of the American Association of University Professors.
Only 56.1 percent of college students earn a degree within six years. President Obama has called for increasing the number of college graduates to make the U.S. first in the world in educated workers.
Massachusetts will link half of community college funding to performance metrics, such as raising graduation rates, meeting the state’s workforce needs and improving success rates for minority students.
Federal job training dollars would go to colleges that collaborate with employers on workforce credentials, under a bill by Sen. Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, and Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican. The bill includes a pay-for-performance pilot.
President Obama’s higher education plan lauds states that link college funding to student success measures, but there’s “little evidence that performance funding improves student success,” new studies find.
Obama also praised competency-based education, but federal financial aid is based on “seat time” rather than learning.
Massachusetts will link 50 percent of community college funding to improvements in graduation rates, workforce development and minority and low-income student success. That’s one of the most ambitious performance-funding programs in the nation.
California Gov. Jerry Brown wants to tie a percentage of university funding to performance goals, such as raising four-year graduation rates. But university officials say the plan is unrealistic.
Michigan will consider letting students choose their school district, reports the Detroit Free Press. Per-pupil funding would follow students to their public schools of choice.
The proposed Michigan Public Education Finance Act would provide for learning at “any time, any place, any way and at any pace,” said Richard McLellan, who developed the proposal for Gov. Rick Snyder. Districts would not “own” students.
The bill would:
• Allow students to access online learning from across the state, with the cost paid by the state. Districts that provide online courses would receive public funding based on performance.
• Provide a framework for funding based on performance, once the proper assessment and testing mechanisms are in place.
• Give scholarships of $2,500 per semester, to a maximum of $10,000, to students who finish high school early.
• Encourage year-round schooling by having a 180-day school year spread over 12 months instead of nine, with a break of no more than two weeks.
Naturally, there’s lots of opposition. Don Wotruba, deputy director for the Michigan Association of School Boards, said the state already is pursuing online learning and school choice. “But it’s monitored,” he said. “The answer is not to say, ‘Here’s the money. Make your own choices.’ ”
Tennessee is considering vouchers for low-income students, reports Ed Week.
Also on Community College Spotlight: Frustrated by low graduation rates, states are experimenting with performance-based funding of community colleges.
Technical colleges in Texas are working on a plan to link all funding to graduates’ employment and earnings. Job training is the mission of the two-year public colleges.
Performance Funding 2.0 — linking higher education dollars to student success, not just enrollment — is taking off in many states. It’s not just a token bonus any more. Tennessee, Ohio and Indiana are writing performance measures into base funding for higher education.