Missouri Lawmakers Working on New Higher Ed Funding Formula

Missouri lawmakers are hard at work on a new funding formula for the state's higher education system, the Columbia Daily Tribune reports. The process kicked off after Governor Jay Nixon signed into law a bill that directed the Joint Committee on Education to have the new formula ready in time for it to be used during appropriations for the 2015 fiscal year.

The Joint Committee on Education took testimony in the summer and fall on what should be included in a funding formula and is starting the work of writing a distribution scheme. The hearing Monday featured the first draft of a committee report that would set aside 10 percent of each year's funding to be paid out only if schools meet performance goals.

Previously, higher education funding was allocated mainly based on how much each school received before. Most of the $854 million set aside for higher ed for this year was allocated just in this way – with the University of Missouri getting the biggest chunk of $398 million – although some amount of controversy arose over the last $2 million.

During the debate on where that $2 million should go, House Speaker Steve Tilley called for most of it to be given to the Southeast Missouri State University because he said the school has been chronically underfunded on a dollars-per-student basis. In the end, the money was split between several smaller schools around the state.

A preliminary draft of the new proposal was unveiled earlier this week, and it outlines a much more complex process than the previously used per-student formula. Among other things that will play a role in determining funding levels will be costs of offering programs – with tech, science and engineering programs costing more to run than those in arts and mathematics – along with the academic diversity at each school.

In addition, each school will need to meet five new metrics to qualify to receive a part of the money set aside in the performance pool which could be as big as 10% of the total higher education budget for that year.

Budgets for Missouri colleges and universities currently are based on their historic funding levels, although there is the potential for a small percentage of additional dollars to be distributed based on performance criteria. Under the new proposal, the state would fund 35 percent of an institution's operating costs. Of that amount, 90 would be automatic and the remaining 10 percent would depend on whether they meet specific performance goals such as retaining students.

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