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Nov. 10, 2011 Volume 33, No. 12

Faculty Council debates state performance funding measures


Measures to be approved in December 2011

Faculty Council members expressed concern last week during a performance funding discussion and update regarding what measures will be used to allocate funds in a proposed state model, especially how the funding metrics reflect the University of Missouri’s mission.

Nikki Krawitz, UM System vice president for finance and administration and a Department of Higher Education Task Force member — which aims to develop a performance funding model — updated Faculty Council on a state of Missouri planned higher education performance funding system during its regularly scheduled meeting. The system comes after request from Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon.

Krawitz explained what proposed funding measures will be used under the system and took suggestions on the measures from Faculty Council members.

The measures — once fund allocation details are determined at a later date — could define how new state monies are distributed to higher-education institutions. At this point in time, all or a portion of new state funding could be distributed based on performance. As the recommendation now stands, all four-year institutions would pick four measures from a list of six, with at least one from each of three categories (see sidebar). Additionally, each institution would choose one measure particular to its institutional mission. Each institution would only compete against itself for improvement or sustained high performance, not against other institutions, she said.

“It’s not a new concept,” Krawitz said. “In fact, Missouri has had performance funding from time to time over the years … this is just coming back. ”

The measures will be taken to the Coordinating Board for Higher Education for approval in December. But some faculty members expressed discontent, particularly how the measures are geared toward undergraduate students only. For example, some of the recommended measures include undergraduates completing 24 hours in their first year and freshman to sophomore retention rates.

Many Faculty Council members said the measures didn’t fully represent MU’s institutional mission, which also includes research and many successful graduate student programs.

“Graduate students are getting published; they are getting grants; they are presenting their research at peer-reviewed, nationally and internationally successful conferences,” said Rebecca Johnson, associate professor of nursing, explaining that MU is a different institution than other Missouri four-year universities, and if research is included in a measure, graduate students’ success should, too.

Krawitz said the task force had suggested that the fifth measure the University of Missouri might use could be research based. But there must be a way to collect data and quantify the performance metric. 

“We need to look at that very closely because, as you know, nationally the pool of research dollars is declining,” she said. “However, with that said, there may be ways to talk about how to use the percentage of federal funding, for example. And our numbers have been looking very good on that.”

As far as the undergraduate focus, Krawitz said it is simply the way the state of Missouri and the U.S. is moving at this current time. And performance funding is usually focused on a narrow set of goals.

“The focus of the state is increasing the number of undergraduate degrees and post-secondary certifications and licensure,” she said. “Oftentimes performance funding is not broad, it’s narrow. It’s focused on accomplishing specific goals in a relatively short period of time … .

“I hear your angst, and believe me, I share it because we (University of Missouri) are different,” Krawitz said to Faculty Council members expressing frustration. “One could argue that as the research university of the state we shouldn’t be included in the same set of measures that the other four-year institutions are included in. But right now that’s not the direction we’ve been going in.”

The current plan is to implement performance funding for fiscal 2014, but the measures to do so will be decided on in December by the Coordinating Board for Higher Education.

Krawitz said she will bring all of the information gathered at last week’s Faculty Council back to the University of Missouri president, chancellors and the Council of Public Higher Education group for recommendation. She will also give the same presentation at the General Fall Faculty Council meeting at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 16 in MU Student Center.

All University of Missouri campuses will be subject to the same set of performance funding measures once chosen.

What are the proposed measures?

According to Nikki Krawitz, UM System vice president for finance and administration, four-year institutions in the state of Missouri would choose four measures — selected from data that Missouri’s institutions already collect — from those listed in the following three proposed categories:

  • Student Progress: Freshman to sophomore retention rate and full-time degree seeking undergraduates completing 24 hours in first year.
  • Degree Attainment: Six-year graduation rate; total degrees awarded; and degrees awarded per full-time equivalent students, (although the use of this measure is still undecided due to a problem with it on an institutional basis). 
  • Quality of Learning: Performance on nationally normed examinations (either major field, general education or professional licensure exams). Krawitz said university provosts asked the task force to add the Quality of Learning category.
The list of measures has not been finalized and other options can still be considered. However, a decision will have to be made soon since approval of the measures will be decided by the Coordinating Board for Higher Education in December. 
Each institution must also determine a fifth measure particular to its mission. Krawitz indicated that the University of Missouri might choose Research Funding as its fifth measure.