Sixteen states now link higher education funding to student outcomes, such as graduation rates. That will rise to 25 states soon, reports Complete College America and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS).
“It’s sweeping across the country,” said Stan Jones, president of Complete College America, reports Inside Higher Ed.
Less than 1 percent of state support in Illinois comes with performance strings, while virtually all of Tennessee’s support does. But the report said even those on the low end are headed toward 25 percent performance-based.
Tennessee scored the highest in the report. The state uses 15 of 16 recommended strategies to improve outcomes while rewarding colleges for serving low-income and adult students.
Most states consider student characteristics when designing performance measures, the report said.
“One of the major concerns voiced about outcomes-based funding, especially when the goal is to produce more graduates,” the report said, “is that institutions will seek to enroll only those students most likely to succeed and ignore students who are at risk academically, economically or otherwise.”
Gary Rhoades said the NCHEMS report confirms worries that the completion agenda is incomplete and even counterproductive. Rhoades, a professor of higher education at the University of Arizona, also directs a virtual think tank, the Center for the Future of Higher Education.
He said the report places “thoughput” – the production of graduates and degrees – over academic quality.
“The concern about quality is real and should be addressed head-on,” the report concedes. Missouri and Tennessee have included measures of student learning in funding formulas. Nevada and other states are working on ways to track learning.