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State Senate Votes To Fund Kentucky Universities Based On Performance

Kentucky state Capitol

The state Senate recently approve a bill that would tie higher education funding to Kentucky universities’ ability to produce more and better graduates.

Critics of the present funding model say that schools are funded with an outdated system that doesn’t account for adjustments in enrollment numbers and graduation rates.

“The university system has to be responsive and we can’t keep graduating people, young men and women, that can’t be employed,” said Senate President Robert Stivers during a debate on Wednesday.

The resolution provides rough guidelines for the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education to establish a pool of money independent of university’s base funds—schools would then compete over a share of that money using a criteria that includes graduation rates, post-graduation earnings and recruiting minority students.

The Senate resolution passed the Senate 20-12, with most Republicans voting in favor and most Democrats voting against.

Sen. Gerald Neal, a Democrat from Lousiville, opposed the bill. He said it would take away funds from poor-performing universities, which need the money more.

“So you don’t want to put them in the same pool where one can draw from the other to the other’s detriment,” Neal said. “That is not what we’re about in Kentucky.”

Neal  said that poor-performing universities wouldn’t have enough time to adjust to new standards. He unsuccessfully fought to delay implementation of a new funding model by having it phase in after a two-year budget cycle.

In May, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported that state funding for higher education has declined by 25.4 percent since 2008.

Last fall, the Courier-Journal reported that the presidents of University of Louisville and University of Kentucky opposed performance funding model unless the General Assembly directed more funding to higher education.

Budgetary decisions won't be made until the next legislative session, which begins in January 2016.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. Email Ryland at rbarton@lpm.org.