Ohio’s Colleges Adjust To Changing State Funding

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Tucked into a list of education proposals Gov. John Kasich unveiled in his "State of the State" speech Monday was a measure that actually has already taken effect: making funding to colleges and universities dependent on student success. It's led one higher-ed institution to adjust its approach to admitting students and guiding them toward a degree.

“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.”

The movement to performance-based compensation for state colleges and universities has been ongoing for several years, but this academic year marks the first that it’s 100 percent performance based.

Ohio Board of Regents’ Jeff Robinson listed how says the funding percentages break down into a handful of areas.

"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 said.*

The University of Akron’s provost Mike Sherman said 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, often at five or six times more cost per credit hour than other students,” Sherman said.

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

Sherman says 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, 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.

*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.