Valley Falls The Kansas Board of Regents and key state legislators on Wednesday agreed to move forward on a possible change in higher education funding that would be based on the attainment of specific goals.
But Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little spoke against the proposal. "The fact is that most places that have done performance-based funding, it has not worked," she said.
Regents Chairman Kenny Wilk, however, said he hoped to have a performance-based budgeting proposal ready by the end of the year so that the Legislature could consider it during the 2015 session, which begins in January.
State Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover, and chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, supported the idea. "The end goal is to have more of our children better educated," he said.
The decision to work on the plan was reached during the regents retreat after a presentation on performance-based budgeting by Dennis Jones, president of National Center for Higher Education Management Systems. No decision was made on how much funding would be tied to performance under any future proposal.
Jones said many states were considering performance-based budgeting and he predicted that a majority of states would implement the system in the next two years.
Tying state post-secondary funding to certain goals can help the state's economy and provide more job opportunities, he said.
Jones said the key to making the system work is for higher education officials and legislators to agree on the metrics that will be used to measure schools' performances.
Potential metrics for Kansas that were discussed included basing funding on increasing the number of undergraduate certificates and degrees awarded, with extra weight given for adults and at-risk youth who attain higher education.
There could also be funding based on the progress that students make through the system and those who graduate with degrees in high-demand fields.
KU Chancellor Gray-Little said problems have cropped up in other states with performance-based funding. For example, she said some schools have produced worthless credentials to secure funding. She said KU already evaluates its performance, and she urged "careful consideration" of the plan as the regents moved forward.
Rep. Jerry Henry, of Atchison, who is the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said he feared that schools would refuse to allow students to pursue certain degree plans if that hurt the institution's chance of attaining performance-based funding.
"I worry about the cherry-picking," he said.
Gov. Sam Brownback's chief of staff, Landon Fulmer, said the governor's office wanted buy-in from the Legislature on the proposal. "We don't want to out-kick our coverage," he said.
Higher education in Kansas faces funding challenges with funding levels still below pre-recession levels.
In 2013, the Legislature passed and Brownback signed into law reductions to universities that resulted in Kansas University taking a $13.5 million cut.
This year, the Legislature and Brownback restored some but not all of those funds.
The cuts in income tax rates signed into law by Brownback have also figured into the equation. Critics say Brownback's tax policies will cut so much revenue, the state will have difficulty funding universities, public schools and other services. Brownback has said the cuts will grow the economy.