Linking dollars to degrees is tricky
Linking community college funding to graduation rates is tricky, writes David Kirp, a Berkeley professor and of the Learning Policy Institute in the Los Angeles Times.
California will tie 40 percent of community college funding to graduation and transfer rates and serving low-income students, he writes. Less than half of students earn a degree or transfer within six years.
“Pay-for-success” has been tried in 35 states, writes Kirp. “Nowhere has it led to more graduates.”
Instead, schools have gamed the funding system, garnering more dollars by pushing students into easier majors or herding them into short-term certificate programs. What’s worse, colleges with a high proportion of minority students have lost out because of their relatively low graduation rates.
California’s law rewards colleges that enroll and graduate low-income students, notes Kirp. That’s in line with a Century Foundation report that concludes “outcomes-based funding models can … advance equity and efficiency” if those models “are finely tuned to ensure the adequacy of funding for institutions that serve large numbers of disadvantaged students and to protect access for those students.”
However, Kirp still worries colleges will concentrate on short-term certificates, which do little to boost students’ earnings but count as a successful outcome for the college.
In Oregon, young people can double their pay by completing a community college certificate, reports Dian Schaffhauser in Campus Technology.
Workers 24 and younger earned $21,000 more per year after finishing a certificate; those 24 to 29 earned $16,000 more, concludes Certificates in Oregon: A Model for Workers to Jump-Start or Reboot Careers by Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce.
Gains were modest for workers 30 to 44, and those 45 and older lost ground.
Older students earned more before starting a certificate program and tended to choose short-term certificates that would get them back into the workforce quickly. By contrast, younger students usually chose one- to two-year certificate programs.
Earnings growth was “dramatic” for women earning health-care certificates. Men earned more because they earned certificates in technical fields, manufacturing, industrial arts and construction.