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Ohio’s Colleges Adjust to Changing State Funding

Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 7:00 PM

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Tucked into a list of education proposals Governor Kasich unveiled in his State of the State speech Monday was a measure that actually has already taken affect - making funding to colleges and universities dependent on student success. StateImpact Ohio's Amy Hansen reports it's led one higher ed institution to adjust its approach to admitting students and guiding them toward a degree.

The new higher education funding formula already passed as part of the state budget last year, but on Monday night, Governor Kasich gave it a little limelight.

“Colleges and universities will not get any of these state dollars that has gone to them traditionally based on enrollment,” Kasich said.  “They will only get paid if students complete courses or students get degrees.  No more wandering around.  This is a big deal for our students and for our schools.”

This marks the first year where state college and universities’ funding is entirely based on performance rather than number of students enrolled.

Ohio Board of Regents’ Jeff Robinson said the funding percentages break down into a handful of criteria.

“Degree completion, which is the 50 percent, there’s an additional 30 percent based on course completion, and then there’s some additional funding on there that has some other barometers for student success points*,” Robinson explained.

The University of Akron’s provost Mike Sherman says this new plan has already helped the administration in taking a deeper look at who they were enrolling-- and the results were not exactly ideal.

“What we discovered was we were admitting some students who had less than a 10 probability of graduating,” Sherman said. “Often at 5 or 6 times more cost per credit hour than other students.”

That led the university to create a tougher admissions process with more of a focus on ACT scores and applicants’ high school GPAs.

Sherman said he’s confident students admitted under this tougher approach will help increase the school’s graduation rate-- and, in turn, their funding.

“We know from that approach, over time, we’ll achieve a 60 percent graduation rate or higher,” Sherman said. “Right now, it’s hovering in the low 40 percent range, because we previously accepted students who really had no chance of completing.”

Looking to the future, the Board of Regents’ Jeff Robinson says the funding plan for four year schools could be useful to the state’s 23 community colleges.

The upcoming mid-biennium budget review will likely include changes to their funding formulas.

*NOTE: Robinson says he’d like to clarify that specific success points do not play a part in the four-year funding formula. He says 100 percent of the funding that a public four-year university receives from the state for its undergraduate programs is performance based. That amount is equal to 80 percent of the university’s total funding from the state, with the remainder being allocated to medical and doctoral programs. 

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