Archive for Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Editorial: Common goals

Finding agreement between Kansas legislators and education officials on what kind of performance measures justify increased higher education funding will be a tall order.

August 12, 2014


The possibility of using certain performance measures as a basis for state higher education funding should spur an interesting discussion at the Kansas Board of Regents retreat that starts today.

The Kansas Legislature has expressed an interest in using some kind of “performance-based budgeting” process in Kansas, according to Regents Chairman Kenny Wilk. Other states are talking about such a system, Wilk said, and the Kansas regents should at least discuss the idea.

Where does that discussion start?

The main challenge for any performance-based budgeting was pinpointed by an official with the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems who will facilitate the regents’ discussion of the issue. “If there is not a clear statement of goals that has broad bipartisan acceptance,” said the official, “there is almost no chance of creating an outcomes-based funding model that can last.”

Reaching a “clear statement of goals” that is agreeable to both state legislators and higher education officials is no easy task.

For instance, the regents came up with their own set of goals last year, including one that aimed to increase the number of Kansans who have earned a post-secondary certificate, credential or degree to 60 percent by 2020. Currently, about 52 percent of Kansans meet that goal, and the regents saw the increase as critical to the state’s future. Even though everyone with a trade certificate to a doctoral degree would be counted in that 60 percent, the regents drew criticism from at least one legislator who saw their goal as “elitist.”

Graduation rates might be one way to measure outcomes, but there may be disagreement about what measures are acceptable to ensure that more students earn degrees in two or four years. For instance, some legislators may balk at raising admissions standards, as Kansas University has done, as a way to ensure entering students are well-prepared to complete degrees. It’s also important not to water down degree requirements in order to boost graduation rates.

At the heart of this debate is the need for the regents and university leaders to prove to legislators how important higher education is to the future of the state. Using performance measures to justify funding is a two-way street. Currently, legislators seem unwilling to increase higher education funding for almost any reason. In fact, Kansas already has approved a system that ties new state funds to specific university goals, but since state universities haven’t received any new base funding in recent years, the system hasn’t been used.

It’s good that the regents are having this discussion, but reaching consensus among themselves on performance-based budgeting goals won’t mean much unless they do a far better job in telling their story and providing the evidence that will justify legislative support, positive action and adequate funding.


Ken Lassman 3 years, 4 months ago

What a slippery slope. Many an English major has gone on to successful careers in other fields; and will readily admit the value of the former to their success in the latter. The same can be said for many a history, social and political science major. Is it elitist to get a psychology degree that does not lead to employment in the field, but provides a good understanding of what constitutes good research and outcomes? Does an understanding of a foreign language of a people who are not an international economic powerhouse provide insight that is nevertheless invaluable in a less direct way other than a high paying career in that field of interest?

Our society needs more engineers, folks with business and legal acumen, and healthcare professionals, and it is an important outcome for higher education to provide this kind of support. But to somehow imply that this is an either-or proposition or somehow elitist to provide a wider educational opportunity that is nor directly connected to a well paying career is really selling humanity short at best,

Making higher education so expensive that only the high paying careers can afford to do it is what makes higher education elitist, not the topics that it offers.

Joe Blackford II 3 years, 4 months ago

Our state has chosen to play host to the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) for 50 years (2022 - 2072). KSU will match the CDC's BSL-4 ebola containment protocols with facilities to infect & study herds of livestock with pathogens the effects of which few of the researchers will have ever witnessed.

There will be spin-off business which the NBAF will supply with what is believed to be dead pathogens (see CDC's recent Anthrax lab scare).

There will be NBAF personnel (humans) who have become inured to necessary safety protocols (see CDC director's recent statements).

The 300 scientists @ NBAF will compete for resources, and in time will likely remove old pathogens no one has used in 50 years . . . and place them in unsecured closets to make room for their own plagues (see CDC smallpox fiasco).

Not one of those 300 scientists will ever make a human error over 50 years' time. The DHS has told us so many, many times, how the NBAF will be just as safe as the CDC.

All so KSU can be in the same league as what, the few other BSL-4 labs which have proven to have made fatal mistakes.

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