Utah Foundation report examines completion and performance funding

UF_CoverThe Utah Foundation released a new report, Steps Forward in Higher Ed: Success Measures, Game Changers, and Performance-Based Funding in Utah, examining the efforts of the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) to help students enrolled in college complete on time. The report also summarizes national trends in performance-based funding of higher education and Utah’s recent steps to adopt an ongoing performance funding model.

Highlights from the report:

  • Utah’s graduation rate delay is not due to the “missionary effect” or military service; students who leave for official church missions or military service are not included in the graduation rate calculation.
  • Utah’s public two-year institutions have higher completion rates than the nation.
  • When adjusted for inflation, the cost of educating students at public colleges and universities has not increased in the past 20 years; there is simply a cost shift from the government to students in Utah and across the U.S.
  • Nationally, the post-secondary education access agenda has shifted to include a completion agenda.
  • Half of the states have begun to employ performance funding to affect completion rates.
  • Utah currently directs less than 0.1% of higher education funds to performance funding.

Improving College Completions

In January 2013, the Utah State Board of Regents introduced a multi-year initiative to improve college completion rates at USHE institutions.  Drawing on the framework of Complete College America, the Board passed a resolution (pg 205) requiring institutions to develop plans to work towards five game-changers to help students be better equipped to complete a meaningful college degree or certificate on time, similar to the game-changers highlighted in the Utah Foundation report:

The work towards improving completion rates, focusing on these key areas, continues.  Institutions will be presenting their three and five year goals and metrics in these areas at the upcoming meeting of the Board of Regents on January 23, 2015.


Performance Funding

As mentioned in the Utah Foundation report, several states have adopted some form of a performance or outcome-based funding model for higher education in recent years. It is also a part of the game changers defined by Complete College America.  In Utah, performance funding is already underway to some degree. The Legislature appropriated one-time funds in the last two legislative sessions to help USHE pilot performance-based funding.

This year, the Board of Regents has prioritized a portion of its funding request towards Performance Funding – a three-fold, ongoing increase, in funds over the past two years.  In conjunction with the request, the Board of Regents in July 2014  adopted guidelines to direct the development of a performance funding model which aligns to many of the proposed best practices suggest by the Utah Foundation:

  • Include All Public Institutions
  • Model Should Reflect and Reinforce Mission Differentiation
  • Models Should Reward Success of Underrepresented Populations
  • Model Should Include Progress Metrics
  • Funding Formula and Metrics Should Be Clear
  • Ensure that Metrics Are Difficult to “Game”
  • Focus on Quality
  • Employ Stop-loss Provisions

At the January 2015 meeting of the Board of Regents, it is anticipated the board will consider a proposed model of performance funding that includes these best practices. While the Utah State Board of Regents has not taken a formal position on this specific report, it is a much appreciated effort that supports many current USHE initiatives as well as work that lies ahead. Additional news coverage available from the Salt Lake Tribune.