Educational funding moving from headcounts to outcomes

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Achievement Compacts may be the first step toward an outcome based funding model for Oregon colleges and universities.

In 2012, the Oregon Education Investment Board began requiring all educational institutions to create an annual Achievement Compact with the state. This compact works as an agreement to “define key measures of student success and set targets for achievement,” according to a summary released by the OEIB.

The new requirements are part of Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber’s education overhaul known as the “40-40-20 plan”, which aims at 80 percent of all Oregon adult residents earning some form of a college degree by 2025.

To achieve these goals, according to the OEIB, the state plans to “invest in learners and learning outcomes instead of headcounts.”

James Middleton, president of COCC. Photo by Nick Thomas | The Broadside

“It is part of a broader initiative to have schools, colleges and universities look at outcomes in addition to just enrollment,” James Middleton, COCC president said. “The Achievement Compact itself, does not translate to outcome based funding.”

Previously, state funding at Oregon community colleges has been based on the number of students enrolled, regardless of whether those students complete their courses.

An outcome based model would use course completion as an indicator for funding, according to Brynn Pierce, Director of Institutional Effectiveness at COCC. By identifying and defining key measures of student success, the Achievement Compacts are a first step toward this shift.

“It’s a big change for people around the state,” Pierce said. “The process is so new, we are trying to find out what it all means.”

Middleton has been working with the Department of Community Colleges Workforce and Development Board on proposals that would incorporate success-based funding into the budget as early as 2014-2015, he explained. In the models, student success would not exceed 30 percent of total funding criteria.

“If state funds do not go up dramatically,” Middleton said, “we cannot have a large amount of outcome-based funding.”

One challenge community colleges may face is that many students do not acquire certificates or degrees, according to Pierce. Some students transfer to a university before obtaining a degree while others take classes for personal enrichment, with no intent to graduate.

To counter this, Middleton and the CCWD have been working on a reverse-transfer policy between community colleges and universities. Students who transfer before obtaining a degree, Middleton said, would be able to use university credits toward their associates degree.

Despite challenges, Middleton believes a funding model based on student success does align with the college’s mission, and may even boost funding for the college based on past productivity.

“Outcome-based funding would make us more sensitive on how budget funding affects student success,” Middleton said. “Students reaching their goals is why we are here.”

–Darwin Ikard

The Broadside

(contact: dikard@cocc.edu)

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