By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – The College Board adopted a new method of divvying up state funds to the eight public universities Thursday with the understanding that the formula may need to be “tweaked” in the coming years.
While several board members said “tweaking” might be needed in the coming years, they said the new funding formula is a major step in ensuring state funds are divvied in a manner that is fair while rewarding positive outcomes and placing an emphasis on the College Board’s priorities.
Board member Aubrey Patterson of Tupelo said the model would be used to help achieve the system’s goals.
“That is a tremendous step,” he said.
The model provides a portion of funds to each university based on the costs of the classes taught. For instance, a school would receive less funding for a freshman English class than for an advanced science class. And the schools would be awarded for outcomes.
If a student enrolls in 18 hours and drops a course, the university does not receive funding for the class not completed, said Commissioner of Higher Education Hank Bounds.
The formula determines how $339.6 million appropriated to the universities is allocated. Under the formula, 7 percent of the money “is taken off the top” for operational expenses. Of the remaining funds, 90 percent is allocated based on weighted completed student hours and the rest is divided based on the board’s priorities, such as an emphasis on increasing the graduating rate of low-income students or of producing more graduates in science and medical fields.
The College Board has been working for years on a new funding formula to replace a system that has been in place since the 1990s and did not take into account changes at the universities.
But the effort has been thwarted in recent years because of funding cuts. This year the Legislature provided additional funds to ensure no school received less funding because of the change.
The University of Mississippi was among the winners under the new system, receiving an additional $3.9 million for a total funding of $74.5 million, not including an additional $1.9 million it received to pay for additional costs for Ole Miss’ employees in the state retirement system.