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2016 April 10 - 05:06 pm

Proposal Calls for Ky. Colleges To Compete for State Funding

25 Percent of State Allocation Would Be Based on Performance Metrics

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The universities of Kentucky and Louisville, hated rivals on the basketball court, now might have something else to compete for: state funding.

Senate Republicans outlined a proposal that would pit the two schools against each other in a competition of various education standards. At stake is 25 percent of each school’s budget allocation. The winner gets the full amount. The loser gets less.

Kentucky and Louisville, the state’s two research universities, would compete only against each other. The state’s five other public schools that offer four-year degrees — Northern Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky, Western Kentucky, Murray State and Morehead State — would compete among themselves. Kentucky’s system of 16 community and technical colleges would compete against each other in a third tier.

Kentucky State University, which is mired in a financial crisis, would be exempt.

The competition would be in two parts. First, the Council on Postsecondary Education would judge a school from 2011-2014 based on the standards. Then the council would judge the school again for the 2015 and 2016 academic years. A school’s score would be the difference between the years 2011-2014 and the years 2015-2016.

That school would then be compared to the other schools in their tier. Whoever has the highest score would be the winner. The losers would be given money based on how far behind they are compared to the winning school. The program would begin for the budget year that begins July 1, 2017.

The competition would be based on criteria included in the Senate’s budget proposal. Republican state Sen. David Givens outlined some of the parameters during a committee meeting. Givens said schools would be judged based on how many minority and low-income students they graduated. And they would score better if they produced more “degrees that matter,” which right now are in the fields of science, technology, engineering, math and health care.

“Whoever is excelling deserves to be rewarded,” Givens said. “But you are also raising the bar for yourself for the next time. You’ve got to perform even better than you did the last time. If someone has a banner year and really excels, potentially they put themselves in a tough spot for the year ahead.”

But Givens said schools would be protected from disaster. If a school loses too much of its 25 percent allocation, the proposal would give the governor the authority to restore the money based upon a recommendation from the Council on Postsecondary Education.

Spokesmen for the universities of Kentucky and Louisville either did not comment or declined to.

The standards would also measure how many students stay in school at each institution, and how much progress those students make. The more students who earn at least 30 credit hours in one academic year, the more points that school would earn. That prompted some concern that community colleges in more rural areas that cater to nontraditional students might have an incentive to reject those students because they would be at a higher risk to drop out or progress more slowly.

“I think the courts have indicated as far as K-12, we’ve got to give equal access to a quality education and I’m going to carry that forward to postsecondary as well,” Democratic state Sen. Robin Webb said.

House Democrats approved a two-year state spending plan that did not include performance-based funding for colleges and universities. But House Speaker Greg Stumbo indicated Democrats might be willing to approve the Senate’s plan.

“It doesn’t seem to me at first blush to be unreasonable,” Stumbo said. “I think it’s a good start. Obviously we wanted to do something.”

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