Graduation Rates To Play Bigger Role In College Funding

Ann McClure's picture

Gov. Nathan Deal is preparing to tackle how the state funds colleges so that more money would go to the schools doing the best job graduating students.

Deal is in the final process of selecting members to serve on a commission that will recommend changes that would allow Georgia to join a growing number of states that have moved away from funding colleges based solely on how many students they enroll. Instead, states are experimenting with tying the money to outcomes such as graduation and retention rates. The idea is to reward colleges for success, not for chasing enrollment.

States further along than Georgia have learned changing the funding formula is a lengthy and difficult process sure to provoke sharp political and emotional debates. While the discussions may start with a committee, it needs buy-in from lawmakers, college presidents and others.

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission has discussed its challenges with officials from the University System of Georgia and the State Board of Regents. Tennessee has used performance funding since 1979, but the amount of incentive money was small and resulted in little improvement in graduation rates. Officials overhauled the program in 2010 and now enrollment plays no role in how much money colleges receive. Colleges earn state money by reaching benchmarks in graduation, retention rates and others areas.

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