Committee seeks better higher ed outcomes, efficiencies

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Senate Universities and Colleges Chair John Polk, R-Hattiesburg, said the goal of a study committee formed by the Legislature is to make higher education more affordable for students and more efficient for taxpayers.
The committee discussed the possibility of funding the state’s eight public universities and 15 community colleges based on performance outcomes during a meeting Thursday at the state Capitol.
In 2011, the Legislature mandated that the universities and community colleges develop plans where they would be funded – at least in part – on performance. Polk said the community college system should have its plan completed by the end of the month. He said the university system would have its proposal finished before the Legislature convenes in January.
The study is being completed against the backdrop of both systems saying they have been impacted in recent years by near- devastating cuts in state funding. In 2000, for instance, 56 percent of the universities’ funding came from state general funds and 32 percent from tuition. Now 35 percent is state funding and 59 percent is garnered from tuition.
And the community colleges are more than $180 million below mid-point funding between what the five regional universities and K-12 public schools receive per student. State law mandates the community colleges receive the mid-point funding level.
If their funding was based on performance, the schools would get more funds for producing more bachelor’s degrees at the universities or associate degrees at the community colleges. They also would receive additional funding, for instance, for job placement and perhaps even for jobs retention – if a graduate remained at a job for a specified length of time.
Currently, universities and community colleges are funded on some type of per-student formula. University of Mississippi officials have longed complained the formula underfunds them in comparison to the other seven universities.
House Universities and Colleges Chair Nolan Mettetal, R-Sardis, asked how the new outcome funding proposal would work since the schools already are underfunded.
“I hope you are talking about new money and not taking it out of our hide,” sad Eric Clark, executive director of the state Community College Board.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com