Budget issues up for discussion at Kansas Board of Regents retreat

The idea of allocating state funds to universities based on how the schools measure up in certain areas will be discussed at length during the Kansas Board of Regents retreat.

Also during the retreat, which will run from Tuesday through Thursday, the board will set its budget priorities and goals for the year. The retreat will be held at The Barn Bed and Breakfast in Valley Falls.

Dennis Jones, with the Boulder, Colo.-based National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, and a leading spokesman on performance or outcomes-based budgeting, will facilitate a discussion.

“Most states are talking about performance-based budgeting in some form or fashion, and the Kansas Legislature has expressed an interest in it,” said Regents Chairman Kenny Wilk.

For many years, state funding to public post-secondary schools was based mostly on enrollment. Then several years ago, a movement swept across the nation to link funding more directly to specific goals or degree programs.

Kansas approved a system of tying new state funds to goals specific to each university. But that system hasn’t applied in recent years because higher education hasn’t received new base funding.

In recent years, some best practices in performance-based funding have emerged, such as engaging all stakeholders and putting enough funding at stake to create incentives.

Jones, who will be assisting the regents, said agreement on the objectives and what will be measured in such a funding model is paramount.

“If there is not a clear statement of goals that has broad bipartisan acceptance, there is almost no chance of creating a outcomes-based funding model that can last,” he said.

Wilk said he hoped the discussion by the regents will prompt more discussion about the idea in the future. “We aren’t going to solve this at the retreat,” he said.