Performance incentives catch on

Performance incentives for students, faculty, and staff are catching on, reports Community College Times.

In Washington, where the State Board for Community & Technical Colleges  boasts one of the oldest and most publicized incentive programs directed at improving student performance, colleges accrue points and receive funding when more of their students reach any of the following six milestones: Earn basic skills points by making test gains; successfully complete a pre-college math or English course, earn 15 college-level credits, earn 30 college-level credits, complete a college-level math/quantitative  reasoning course, or earn a degree or certificate.

“It’s not just monetary incentives, it’s how you structure programs and how you keep track.”, says Davis Jenkins, a senior research associate at the Community College Research Center. “We’re encouraging colleges to make sure students have a plan [for academic progress] and to track students’ progress according to the plan.”

Incentive programs were a key recommendation in Reclaiming the American Dream, a report by the American Association of Community Colleges’ 21st-Century Commission,

Student-based incentives can include tuition discounts that kick in after a student earns a credential or reaches a predetermined credits-earned threshold, says Peter Ewell, vice president of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS), a nonprofit organization in Boulder, Colo., and member of AACC’s 21st-Century Commission. Another option is partial loan forgiveness if these milestones are achieved, he says.

For faculty, bonus pay is one route, Ewell says. But other incentives are also popular. “Some of the best of these ideas are collective rewards—faculty development grants, travel grants—to academic units that achieve higher than predicted success.”

Increasingly, states are offering performance incentives to community colleges that improve student outcomes.