Our View: Public universities’ funding shouldn’t be performance-based

Published 8:06 am Thursday, February 23, 2017

Public universities in Kentucky may soon receive funding based on performance if a bill approved by the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee Tuesday becomes law.

Senate Bill 153 creates a new way to fund higher education based on graduation rates and other performance measures.

The bill was written by university presidents, the Council on Postsecondary Education and Sen. David Givens (R-Greensburg).

While many things in life are based on performance, i.e. job promotions and educational attainment, we don’t think funding public universities should be as such.

In the long run, this sort of funding model will likely hurt smaller rural schools that serve populations that may not have access to larger universities.

Percentages of funding would be based on a variety of factors, like student success, the university’s share of total student credit  hours earned in Kentucky and the university’s share of square footage dedicated to learning, spending on instruction and full-time students.

Based on this model, it would be hard to believe universities that are already thriving and financially stable wouldn’t continue to out pace the smaller universities. These smaller universities provide degrees that are more affordable to many low-income families.

Take for example Eastern Kentucky University in neighboring Madison County. EKU pales in comparison to larger universities, like University of Kentucky or Western Kentucky University. But many of the students in EKU’s 22-county service region in eastern Kentucky likely couldn’t afford to attend a university that far away from home where tuition is higher and room and board would need to be paid. Most importantly, the degrees awarded are equally relevant in the job hunt as ones from other universities.

Smaller universities already struggle more financially because of lack of alumni donations or wildly popular, thus money-making, athletics teams. This already existing underfunding is no doubt going to reflect in performance and enrollment.

With this funding proposal, large already wealthy and thriving universities will just continue to prosper, while smaller universities will continue to struggle.

A better model would look at ways to provide funding fairly to all schools while boosting support for rural universities that serve often overlooked populations.