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Higher Education Could See Funding Changes

By Daniel Cherry | Published 03 Mar 2011 08:16am | comments

Higher education could be seeing a new model for how it's funded in Mississippi. The legislature is deciding whether to allow an education committee to review different ways to allocate money among universities. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports on how the bill could make a big difference in the state.

Mississippi has the least amount of college educated people over the age of 22 in the nation. A bill is working its way through the legislature which would authorize a council to study how to fix that problem. The Education Achievement Council would be in place to study the effects of basing funding on productivity rather than enrollment. Dr. Hank Bounds is the Commissioner of Higher Education. Bounds says achievement based funding could put some schools at a disadvantage.

"It's probably easier to increase productivity where the average ACT is 23 or 24 versus an institution where the average ACT may be 18."

Bounds says says that's going to be considered in the study, and schools would have to be reviewed based on individual accomplishments. Using productivity to shape funding is a national trend. Vice chair of the Senate Education Committee Gray Tollison says he hopes education improves, but the council should be skeptical when looking only at performance.

"We just need to make sure they have the resources available to provide a quality education. We don't need to be throwing diplomas out the window and having a diploma mill type deal. We need to provide a college education to our Mississippi students."

The bill only authorizes the council to review the merits of such system and then provide the legislature with a recommendation in 2013. Kelvin Buck is the chairman of the House Universities and Colleges committee. He says he has some reservations about stressing performance when schools are already under-funded...it should be a process.

"If a state like ours doesn't have a focused and steady approach to this then we will continue to see ourselves at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to so many quality of life issues that we have in this country."

Buck says the state can't make long term decisions based on extraordinarily low budget years. All said a new approach is needed to increase graduation rates and provide a more educated work force. Daniel Cherry...MPB News. 

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