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Missouri proposes new funding model for universities

The Missouri Department of Higher Education is taking steps to implement a new funding model for public colleges and universities that would allocate funding predominately based on the number of bachelor’s degrees award by the institutions.

Under the proposed model, each school would develop a single goal to reflect its mission, by choosing four of six performance metrics to calculate funding, including measures that analyze freshman to sophomore retention rates, full-time undergraduate rates, six-year graduation rates, total degrees awarded, degrees awarded per full-time student and performance on national professional exams.

Although each institution is allowed to develop a single goal to its mission, the UM System receives one appropriation, and would therefore have to develop a single goal across all four campuses.

The plan will be evaluated for approval by the Coordinating Board of Higher Education at the Board’s December meeting next week. If approved, the Department of Higher Education will recommend the proposal to the Governor, who will include the plan in the 2014 budget draft.

Nevertheless, it has received criticism from a few state legislators, who believe the proposal is simply an attempt by Nixon to avoid the state legislature and seize control of budget decisions. They argue that, since it mainly focuses on academic performance, the calculations for funding will have already been determined before legislators convene to draft the state’s annual budgets.

“There’s no reason to believe that the General Assembly is going to take this seriously,” Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia said in the Missourian. “This is far more political than the legislature ever makes funding for higher education.”

The proposal has also generated controversy among faculty in public universities throughout the state, who believe graduate and research programs would be marginalized by the new model.

“I do take exception with the notion that you’re only looking at undergraduate” education, said Rebecca Johnson, MU associate professor of nursing in the Kansas City Star. “If that’s all you care about, revise our mission. Why allow ourselves to be lumped in with a system that only considers half of our mission?”

ltrigg@unews.com

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